Welwyn go through in Tankard at the expense of St Albans
PUBLISHED: 16:24 03 September 2013 | UPDATED: 16:29 03 September 2013
WELWYN progressed into the second round of the Herts Presidents’ Tankard, but not in the way they would have expected on Saturday.
St Albans did not have enough registered front row forwards available, so were obliged to concede the tie to Welwyn.
In the true spirit of the game, both sides agreed that the match should go ahead as a warm-up opportunity and four quarters of 20 minutes each were played with unlimited rolling replacements.
Welwyn have spent a considerable amount of time and money on improving the playing surfaces on all three pitches and the ground looked immaculate.
On a fine afternoon, a decent crowd assembled to see what this year’s crop of players are likely to produce. They were thoroughly entertained by a good game of competitive rugby which proved a useful exercise for both clubs.
Welwyn started strongly and spurned a couple of kickable penalties in favour of probing the corners to attempt to get over for a try.
Although Welwyn were dominant in the first quarter, the sides were still level 0-0 at the first break.
St Albans opened the scoring with a try by former County winger Ed Coy and led 5-0 at the end of the second quarter.
In the third period, Welwyn changed their strategy and elected to kick at goal from a penalty 30 metres out and Pat Lynch made no mistake to bring the scores to 5-3.
St Albans responded by creating enough space out wide for Coy to score his second try of the afternoon.
Welwyn then pressured the St Albans’ line and elected to scrummage from a penalty awarded only five metres out. Good control at the base of the scrum saw No 8, Dave Wells, touch down and Lynch’s conversion levelled the scores at 10-10.
The final quarter was dominated by the visitors who got better as the game went on. Coy completed his hat-trick and a further try, both converted by skipper Mark Kentish, saw St Albans run out as winners , 24-10.
New St Albans coach Jon Chinn has plenty to work with and if the forwards become more competitive, their dangerous backs are likely to do well.
There were also plenty of encouraging signs for Welwyn, with several new young players acquitting themselves well.
In the front row, young props Louis Castiglione and Shaun Lewis did well, supported by the streamline and rejuvenated Grant Keeler who alternated between tight head and hooker.
The back row is likely to be extremely competitive this season and Josh Hewitt, Dave Wells and Carl Lewis all impressed. With the temporarily absent Picken, Cook and Hopley still to come back, competition should be fierce.
Welwyn have less strength in depth in the backs but again, there were several encouraging performances.
Rory Harcourt reminded everyone watching of his undoubted talent, playing the entire game at scrum half. Andy Smith has recently moved from the wing to centre with much success and his brother Ben has taken the vacant position on the wing.
James Littlejohn made a welcome return to the ranks having finished his studies and looks to be a very useful addition to the squad as a fly half/centre.
There were also two debutants in the backs in James Lynch and Jonny Morgan who both looked comfortable at this level.
Welwyn play another warm-up game away at Cheshunt on Saturday and their first league game is away to Old Streetonians on September 14.
New players at every level are always welcome at the club which is centrally based at Hobbs Way, off Colgrove. Training is at 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and new players should just turn up and ask to be introduced to coaches Dene Miller and Mike McKay. England coach, Simon Hardy, also brings his considerable experience to the coaching team on Thursdays.
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