Woodbridge are held at home by Crusaders
Eastern Counties 3 Woodbridge Warriors 19 Crusaders 19
Woodbridge were the worst culprits with too many penalties and errors at the set piece in the early stages of this close clash, writes Simon Ballard.
Crusaders No.8 Robert Dye was energetic in attack as was centre Greg Thurston – pressing from deep with full-back Ryan Harris. Play oscillated between 22s with both defences tested and suffering from the breeze disrupting throw-ins, some poor kicks and sloppy offsides.
Crusaders looked sharpest in the first stages gaining the most territory but Woodbridge No.8 Aldis Salavejs was sprightly from the scrum and his back-row colleagues James Porter and Matt Bowman challenged the visitors’ five-metre line.
Penalties reduced Woodbridge to 14 men and Crusaders mauled in the home 22 from which full back Harris snaffled and scored wide to break the impasse.
This startled the Warriors into life and within minutes they had a corresponding scrum from which Salavejs darted over to score.
The restart set Woodbridge up again, this time it was a scrum outside the 22 and fast ball through Bowman, centre Luke Wattam to wing James Stickley and a try.
The second half started like the first, with the teams testing each other’s defences but couldn’t finish.
Woodbridge challenged but despite moving from touchline to touchline spent so long that an error was inevitable.
The penalties kept coming for both sides, compounded by bent throw-ins and scrum infringements until Bowman found some space supported by Tim Johnson, Jono Cooke and energetic fly-half JP Hart.
Sadly Johnson drew the penalty when isolated. Woodbridge stayed up, using their runners, Jamie Smith, Hart, Bowman and Clogg until the sustained duress was rewarded as Salavejs scored his second.
The Crusaders forwards and hard-working scrum-half Rob Loone clearly took a dim view and stepped-up the scrum to oppress with first a held-up try and then a sweet feed from the back to Harris running a great line to score.
It wasn’t over though, with minutes left Cru’s kept up the fight – another scrum penalty, a line-out and prop Henry Joy was over for Loone to kick and, deservedly, level the score.