New look Crewe & Nantwich RUFC start the season with a convincing win
By Steve Holding
Following a disappointing 2016/17 season which saw them dropping a division, Crewe & Nantwich RUFC 1st XV started life in the Midlands 2 West (North) Division with a convincing 39 -22 home win against Walsall RFC.
On the field the Crewe & Nantwich team included many new faces as no less than 10 players have left the club during the summer to play elsewhere or hung up their boots.
Off the field the club also appointed a new Director of Rugby, Martin Davies and a new Head Coach, Peter Allen, who, coached Sandbach last season.
Naturally, before kick-off, the supporters where curious to see how the team would shape up after such a transitional period in the close season.
They didn’t have long to wait because shortly after five minutes, the visitors were penalised just outside their own 22 meter line and Crewe’s Jim Creighton duly kicked a penalty between the posts to calm any potential nerves and put Crewe & Nantwich ahead 3-0.
Immediately form the re-start, home team skipper, the marauding Eli Woodward gathered the ball and went on a short run before being tackled by three Walsall players. From the ensuing ruck, the ball was neatly passed through Crewe hands to the debutant at inside centre, Josh McShane who introduced himself to the home crowd by going on a jinking run from his own half, avoiding several Walsall tackles and scoring a superb try underneath the posts, which was converted by Creighton to give Crewe & Nantwich a 10 -0 lead with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
Crewe & Nantwich enjoyed most of the possession however the bigger Walsall pack were determined to get their team back into the game one way or another and following poor defence by the home team at a ruck five meters from the Crewe try line, Walsall tight head prop, Fitzgerald pushed his way over to bring them back into the game with a try that was somewhat against the run of play. The try was not converted 10-5 to Crewe with 25 minutes on the clock.
The try acted as a wake-up call for the home team who went through five well drilled phases of play leading to a try being scored in the corner by the dogged Crewe number 7 David Germain. The conversion kick from the right touchline was no problem for Jim Creighton who extended the home team’s lead to 17-5.
From the re-start Walsall repeated an earlier mistake by kicking the ball straight into the hands of Crewe hooker and skipper Eli Woodward. He charged into the Walsall half with at least six of his team at his shoulder. He was finally stopped, however the attack had caused panic in the visitors ranks and another jinking run by McShane followed by a great pass to Toby Ward, who exposed a gap at the back which he was able to storm through, ending over 12 months out of the game with a serious knee injury with a great try under the posts, which Creighton converted to make it 24-5 to Crewe & Nantwich and half time was fast approaching.
To rub salt into the wounds of the shell shocked visitors, Crewe were awarded a penalty for offside just before the half time whistle. Captain Woodward opted for a kick at the posts which was comfortably slotted by Creighton to make the half-time score Crewe & Nantwich 27 – 5 Walsall.
The second half began in scrappy fashion with neither side really asserting themselves. However on 60 minutes Walsall were handed a slight advantage when Crewe replacement Grant Coiley was sin binned for 10 minutes after an alleged infringement at a ruck near the Crewe try line. The incident acted as a wake-up call to the home team who rallied and despite being a man down, another debutant, Elliot Meredith decided to take matters into his own hands with a virtuoso burst from the Crewe 22 yard line past several defenders to score a memorable try out of nothing to extend the Crewe and Nantwich lead to 34-5 with Creighton’s successful conversion.
As the game entered its final quarter, Crewe seemed to tire, a number of tackles were missed and the rucks weren’t being hit with the same ferocity. This let the visitors back into the game as they scored two tries within a matter of minutes, only one of which was converted. With 12 minutes left on the clock Walsall were growing in confidence despite trailing 34-17.
Crewe skipper, Eli Woodward gathered his men under the posts as the visitors missed their conversion. Whatever was said got the right response as some good play from the forwards won the ball for Crewe and following a quick interchange of passes, Ward who had now moved from the wing into the inside centre position made a decisive break at speed which left the Walsall defence in his wake to score his second try of the afternoon. His smile spoke volumes because at one point during the last year it was unsure whether the knee injury he had sustained would have ended his playing career. Thankfully it didn’t and his confident display saw him being named the man of the match.
His try went unconverted however that was not of any real relevance and despite a late consolation try for the visitors; Crewe & Nantwich secured a bonus point victory by 39 -22.
After the game, Crewe & Nantwich RUFCs new Head Coach, Peter Allen said “Naturally I’m pleased that we won today. At times I thought we played some very good rugby. Some of our tries were high quality and all the players that made their first team debut today gave a good account of themselves. We still have work to do in training to address certain issues and we will do that between now and our next league game in two weeks time. The support from the spectators was fantastic today and I know that will have helped the players. I hope that I and they will give the supporters more to cheer and smile about as the season progresses”.