Triangular vs Saracens and Harrow
report by Bill Beverley and Rupert Such
On a cold, but thankfully dry morning, we welcomed Saracens and Harrow to Twyford Avenue for a triangular fixture. The intention was to have 2 sides from both of the visiting clubs and 3 of our own but as everyone seemed to be down on numbers we ended up having a single Harrow team, a full Saracens team plus a Saracens All-Stars augmented by the some key Wasps players, about whom more later. We then distributed the rest of our players between two Wasps teams.
Wasps B: Tom Blackler, Adrien Alexandre, Sam Beverley, Kai Logenleku, Eden Thiede-Palmer, Max Webber, Theo Such, James Skinner, Antonn Mathieu, Nathaniel Dixon, Yamato Bando, Alex Sharpe-Neal, Kieran De Silva, Dylan Hodgson, Liam Munro.
Wasps B Vs Saracens 1 (2-3)
Saracens 1 was a disciplined side with excellent backs and solid pack. Yet again showing what a natural forward he is, Kai ripped the ball out of a ruck then crashing through all opposition made a great run to score Wasps first try. Saracens made a concerted counter attack and soon evened up the score but Eden made an important tackle to keep it one all at half time.
The second half was characterised by some excellent support and rucking, especially by Sam, Tom, Max and Adrien. Adrien’s hard work paid dividends when he won the ball in the ruck then surged forward before off loading to Alex who tore up the left wing to put Wasps back in the lead. Wasps then valiantly defended with great determination but Saracens piled on the pressure. A particular centre that scored all their tries, proved to be fast, elusive and strong runner who was extremely difficult to tackle. On several occasions Dylan made important tackles as a stalwart full back but with some missed tackles, Saracens managed to even the score then pull ahead in the last few moments of the match.
Wasps B Vs Harrow 1 (6-0)
Harrow 1 came to Wasps B’s having already been beaten by Wasps A’s and proved to have a great team spirit but not a great deal of depth in their forwards or their backs. After a phase of excellent rucking, the battling Tom Blackler opened the Wasps account with a powerful drive over the try line. This was followed by James Skinner ripping the ball out of a breakdown, passing to Theo who made a darting run over the try line only to be held up but then passing to Will who scored the first of his hat trick of tries. Alex’s next try came from a solid scrum drive where Theo, settling into his new position at scrum half, passed to James who made a great run through Harrow’s defence to off load to Alex to score in the left corner. An excellent team effort from both forwards and backs. The forth try came from Max who cut a swath through Harrow and scored by literally dragging Harrow defenders over the try line with him. Try number five came from a characteristic chinking and side stepping run from Alex, deep from our own half, running rings around a now weary Harrow defence. The sixth and final try came from a fabulous piercing run from Antonn, skilfully off loading to Yamato who drove over the try line with his customary determination.
Man of the match: Alex S-N
Wasps A Squad: Sam Aslam, Eddie Bannister, Allegra Young, Gus Baker, James Mumby, Tom Illingworth, Fergus McWilliams, William Sawyer, James Pye, Alex Gibbs, Nate Thiede-Palmer, Leo Currie, Ben Sanders, Hugo McDonald, Max Raphael, (Special guest appearance from Sam Beverley for second half of the last match as we were running out of forwards)
Wasps A vs Saracens 2 All-Stars (Draw 1-1)
The first game got off to a slow start with neither side being able to make appreciable headway but it was the Saracens team that began to settle the fastest with significant contributions from the Wasps contingent. Mathieu Durate, playing in the Saracens second role was beginning to make a real impact against his regular team-mates. Some missed tackles and issues with our defensive alignment began to give the visitors the edge. The first half ended scoreless but we were having to defend hard.
The second half carried on in the same vein as the first and then when a last ditch kick was charged down by the Saracens forwards, the ball bounced forward and was left to roll as the Wasps players assumed it to be a knock-forward. A Saracens player had the presence of mind or maybe just instinct to pounce on the loose ball and the try was awarded. A harsh lesson to learn but as so often this season, the adversity seemed to sting the Wasps team into action.
Following the re-start, everyone seemed desperate to reverse the run of play. Great rucking and mauling from Sam Aslam supported by Leggie Young and a rampaging James Mumby resulted in putting the team back onto the front foot. Tom Illingworth was moving the ball quickly from the back of the scrum into the hands of Fergus McWilliams, who was linking well with the centres and particularly Alex Gibbs. It seemed just a matter of time before the break through would come and eventually Alex Gibbs broke through the Saracens defence to score a nicely worked try. This was how he game ended, a very honourable draw.
Wasps A vs Harrow 1 (Win 5-1)
A different A team appeared on the next pitch to go directly into the second game this time against Harrow. The Harrow team played well but lacked the firepower both up front and in the backs. Within minutes of the kick-off a now trade-mark run from Sam Aslam from a breakdown in the middle of the pitch resulted in the first Wasps try. The rest of the first half was predominately one-way traffic with the Wasps backs getting steadily more involved. Fergus McWilliams was continually probing the defence and only some committed tackling by the Harrow team kept him out but not for long. Tom Illingworth’s good service from the back of a pack that was going forward gave the backs plenty of opportunities and before half time Fergus McWilliams and Alex Gibbs had both crossed the try line.
The second half started well with Alex Gibbs going over for yet another try but then it was Harrow’s turn to come back into the match. Some missed tackles and allowing runners to offload kept the ball alive for Harrow and gave them a deserved try. Not wishing to finish the game on such a note, the Wasps team resumed the earlier pressure enabling Fergus to score his second try of the match.
Tries: Sam Aslam, Fergus McWilliams (2), Alex Gibbs (2)
Wasps A vs Saracens 1 (Draw 1-1)
The final Wasps A game was against a strong Saracens 1 team but three matches on the bounce was beginning to take its toll on both teams, even if they were just 7 minute each way. For much of this final match the two teams battled each other almost to a standstill. Saracens had some strong runners but the Wasps backs were particularly forceful in stopping them. In the middle of the second half Nate Theide-Palmer, who had tackled well all morning, was on hand to put in an outstanding, try-saving tackle on the left-wing bringing to ground the most dangerous Saracens centre within a couple of meters of our try line.
As time was running out Wasps raised their game and the forwards were making holes to be exploited by the back line. Almost inevitably it was Alex Gibbs who finally managed to break the deadlock, scoring an excellent try running through the Saracens defence. They may have thought that it was all over but in the dying seconds of the match Saracens finally forced their way over our line to make the final score 1-1. Tries: Alex Gibbs
Man of the Match(es): Alex Gibbs
As a postscript to these reports a very special mention must go to the three Wasps boys who played for Saracens All-Stars: Mathieu Duarte, Thibaud LeCalvez & Max Keenlyside. Saracens parents and coaches were incredibly impressed by the skill, commitment and “professionalism” of the boys playing with a new team against their team-mates and have asked me to pass on their thanks and admiration. Mathieu Duarte was particularly fearsome in the loose play. Many a time a Wasps ball would come back with a red-bibbed limpet attached who would then wrestle the ball back to the Saracen’s side.
A Special Opponent of the Week Award goes to Mathieu Duarte.