Saturday, January 28, 2023

Rugby: Thurrock ooze class as they defeat Chingford

DIRECTOR of Rugby, Martin Jones is like the chef who decides to make some mayonnaise! He has the ingredients; the salt, pepper, mustard, eggs and oil. All he has to do is bring them together to achieve the perfect blend and consistency, but therein lies the difficulty reports Thurrock Rugby Club.

Most rugby aficionados would agree that the most successful teams have a core of players at their peak, a couple of gnarled, wily campaigners and two or three youngsters.
In a situation where Thurrock are massively improving their facilities, there has been more of an emphasis on youth, with a thriving Academy now being managed by long-serving First team centre, Ben Stanley.

There are always those supporters who want instant success, but like the England football team with the likes of Foden, Saka and Bellingham, Jones is throwing his weight behind the burgeoning local talent.

Thurrock opened the game with attacking intent and with Dan Stone utilising the carnage created by Niall Clifford and Henry Bird as a diversion, the home side hit their stride from the off. Indeed, Stone ghosted through a gap to touch down, only to be thwarted by a double movement!

Thurrock could not be held in check for long. Fine approach work by the diligent front row of Antrobus, Ulph and Wright led to a series of punishing attacks which allowed Alex Jones the vision to spot the gap and crash over for a trademark scrum-half’s try. Stone failed to add the extras.

With Bird and Clifford beginning to control midfield, the former Campion 10 sold the perfect dummy before accelerating through the gears and scoring a scintillating try. Unable to convert, Stone handed the kicking duties over to Rhys Cotter who set about making his own mark on the game.

Now the pack began to dominate. Lawrence Brown, returning from injury was outstanding as were Dritan Loka , on his 151st appearance and Caolan Watts-Adams. These two, along with the ever-impressive Jay Jennings ruled the airwaves, especially with Dan Ulph hitting his targets. Returning captain, Ben Timson was having a field day behind such power.
A decisive driving maul was brilliantly executed much to the delight of coaches Dave Stevens and former Saracen, Dave Catchpole. Dan Ulph steered the pack over the line before squeezing over in Jamie George fashion.

With everything going Thurrock’s way, suddenly an unforced error brought a yellow card and offered Chingford a lifeline, which No 8, James Webster gratefully accepted.

However, this was only temporary respite as Thurrock went into overdrive with their unique brand of exhilarating rugby.
Niall Clifford and Henry Bird have forged a powerful midfield alliance that marshalls a phalanx of defenders which, at times, seems impenetrable. The old maxim that “defence is the best form of attack” was never more in evidence than when these centres started to lacerate the Chingford defence with their tenacity and angles of attack. First, Clifford was the happy recipient of a great line taken by Bird before the pair reciprocated with another outstanding try.

The wingers, Kye Holloway and Ahmed Amimu, were beginning to get in on the act as they fed off the power of the midfield. Kye Holloway carried on from his impressive start to the season, while Lawrence Brown and Loka got on to the new scoreboard.

With James Rodger, Eddie Stevens and Tom Wileman coming off the bench the momentum continued and skipper, Ben Timson was able to lurk on the touchline to poach his customary try.

Full-back Rhys Cotter, the youngest player on the park, gave a masterful display of goal-kicking, adding six conversions in his own unique style.

Niall Clifford was voted “Man of the match”, which, in fairness, could have gone to any of the team for what was one of the best performances seen at Oakfield in recent years.

“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be re-organised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by re-organising and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress whilst creating confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.” – Petronius Arbiter,66 A.D.

In a week when Wales and England have sacked their Head Coaches, the England Football manager, Gareth Southgate had backed his youth. So far, the outcome had been exciting. There will, no doubt, be tougher times ahead, but, for the time being, let’s enjoy the moment.

Martin Jones is in a similar position. He is laying the foundations of the future, but is fully aware that when making the best mayonnaise you have to bring the ingredients together carefully and drizzle the oil slowly and patiently!

Last weekend was a Red Letter occasion for the Oakfield club with the Ladies having a convincing win away to Hove and the Denes defeating Eton Manor 3rds by 70 points

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