Rhinos trampled down

Ipswich Rhinos rugby team gave a polished first half performance against the defending champions Crawley Jets only to run out of steam in the second half.

Crawley Jets 48 Ipswich Rhinos 4

Ipswich gave a polished first half performance against the defending champions only to run out of steam in the second half. Crawley ran out worthy winners over an under-strength Ipswich side and now face Coventry in Saturday's semi final on neutral ground at Bedford. The other semi-final will feature newcomers Teeside against Hemel Hempstead.

There was more than enough good play on Saturday to suggest that a full strength Ipswich side may have been equal to Crawley and the Rhinos will rue the fact that so many first choice players never made it to this final match. The industrious Mike Reeves(Holiday),Joe Francis, Taff Thomas and Stuart Whybrow were all missing, while Paul Roberts Chikezie Knox Macaulay and Lee Haylock remained on the injured list giving Ipswich only two replacements on the bench and a quality gap that they were unable to bridge, save for a dogged display of defiance in the first half.

Both sides shared the opening exchanges going through the tackle count without threatening. Jets had to wait until the 8th minute to cross the Ipswich line when Richard Billings collected O`Reilly`s up and under thirty metres out racing clear of the defence to score.

Harry Ackerman and Brendan Cooke both made their presence felt early on with some surging runs in

attack while hooker Vaughan Evans abilty to get in his opponents faces unsettled Crawley for a while.

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Forwards Tom Evans Jones and Shaun Griffin had to form an unlikely partnership in the centres further weaking the pack, but aquitted themselves well throughout the match. Cooke looks a racing certainty to be Young Player of the season when the awards are announced at the Club dinner on Saturday September 8th while the tireless Andy Windrige who again topped the tackle count could be one of the contenders for the senior award.

Some tenacious defence by Ipswich coupled with indecision in the home team ranks meant Crawley did not have all of the play in the first half. Dave Wattam increased the lead on 20 minutes running

clear from the play the ball at close quarters. The third and best try of the half when Wattam sent

over a low probing crossfield kick which Ed Dowling gathered off his bootlaces before diving over to give Crawley an 18-0 lead at half time.

Half backs Richard Pollard and Pete Le Marquand urged the players on to even more effort and although up against an expansive side Ipswich continued to compete. With only two replacements giving little chance for the forwards to regroup Ipswich's defence dropped off allowing Crawley to add five second half tries through Riaan Kruger(2), Kelvin Cartwright(2), and Paul Mysak. Former Rugby League Professional Steve O`Reilly whose distribution kept the tries coming in the second half finished with seven conversions and a penalty goal.

Throughout the second period Ipswich never stopped playing Rugby and they were finally rewarded when a superb handling move late in the game unlocked a tight defence allowing Benson Ho to touch

down on the right wing for a try. At the conclusion of a highly successful season, and with the Conference Leagues set for an overhaul leading to upgradings next year, Eastern Division Champions Ipswich have an idea of the standards required should they attain higher status next year.

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