ENFIELD IGNATIANS left the field with their heads held high after pushing the league leaders Thurrock all the way at Donkey Lane.
Thurrock, beaten just once during the campaign and looking odds-on to go up, are used to clocking up big scores against most sides, but, in the muddy arena of Donkey Lane, the visitors became locked into an unaccustomed war of attrition that discomforted them at times.
Ignatians, humbled 44-13 in the away fixture, certainly got their tactics spot-on and, mindful of the slippery conditions, used their big forwards to rumble forward via the maul – and, when the occasion demanded it, they cleverly sucked in the Essex visitors around the fringes which freed up space out wide.
The hosts were unable to capitalise on their territorial dominance in the first half hour, although they had the satisfaction of opening the scoring after an alleged illegal tackle resulted in a penalty which fullback Dannan O’Meachair put over on seven minutes. Ignatians had two further penalty chances to keep the score board ticking – one of them when Thurrock were penalised for coming in at the side – but the kicks sailed agonisingly wide which kept the visitors in the hunt.
The hunted became the hunters in the second quarter when a sudden rush of blood to the head by Tan Mbonu saw him sin-binned for a trip, and Thurrock’s Ben Madden successfully executed the short range penalty attempt to level the scores. However, Thurrock, having defended well, don’t concede many tries and they made the most of their limited chances to break the deadlock, and with Ignatians’ blindside cover having become threadbare, Aaron Woodward exploited a simple overlap to fire the visitors in front. Ignatians reacted positively, and having worked their way to inside the Thurrock 22, they fatally turned over a ball and the visitors capitalised which sparked a slashing counterattack which was only halted by a last-ditch tackle.
The home side managed to initially wheel the resulting Thurrock scrum but, with Ignatians a man short, the visitors again exploited their advantage as Ben Stanley ran-in for a second try after the defence was stretched to breaking point.
The second-half was the reverse image of the first, although Thurrock, very much in the ascendancy, but failed to make any further breakthrough, aided by the introduction of former Thurrock U18 player Stefan North whose been plying his trade at Saracens and Southend. Thurrock were kept at bay due in part, to some excellent defence from the home side. However, Ignatians refused to give up and they gave themselves of sniff of being able to rescue the game after O’Meachair landed a second penalty with minutes remaining.
But Thurrock kept the home side locked in heroic defence mode, meant that they had reached an impasse as no further avenues were open to them, and Thurrock recorded a hard earned victory.
TEAM:REID,PORTER,MADDEN,STANLEY FARRELL,RUDGLEY,EATON,STEVENS,CAREY,(NORTH 40m),SMITH,KETTLETON,WOODWARD,TIMSON,CROWHURST, RETTIGAN REP : WAKEFIELD, HOWELLS
Next Game: Mersea Island. Home: 3pm following the first VP Lunch of 2010.