St Neots Rugby Clubs opening pre-season game against a very strong Wymondham side may have ended in defeat, but the effort, commitment and teamwork were all there for the coaching staff to see, in particular from many of the new faces to the Saint Neots squad. Ross Hubbard worked well with skipper Nick Ashford at second-row, with a solid performance at the scrum and line-out set pieces, and back-row forward Keiran Martin combined well with regular back-rowers Cameron Howson and Rob Turner, running hard and strong in attack and being destructive in defence, with some big first up tackles.
St Neots also used this opportunity to field a number of young 18 year old players with Ollie Donald and Prince Mangwende out wide, Josh Lofty in the front row and Archie Hill giving an accomplished performance in the key fly-half position for such a young player.
Playing with a strong wind at their backs, Wymondham managed to score the first three tries. Prop Jim Norton came close to opening St Neots account with a typical breakaway run that got St Neots well into Wymondams 22, and from a resulting penalty, scrum-half Dan Hill was alert enough to take a quick tap 10 yards from the Wymondham line and he squeezed through gaps in their big forwards to touch down over the line. The sides then turned around with the score at 5 – 17 and St Neots still very much in the game.
In the second half St Neots did now have the wind at their backs, but Wymondham had brought enough players to field a whole new fresh team. Despite this, St Neots applied all the pressure and after ruck near the Wymondham line, prop Joel Atkins picked up the ball, drove for the try-line and the defence could not stop him power over for the score which Archie Hill converted to close the gap.
But this only energised the Wymondam team and with their new teams fresh legs they began to find gaps in the tiring St Neots defence and they managed to run in a few more tries to extend their lead. But St Neots were not finished and new centre partnership of James Michael and Aiden Jordan combined well to release Prince Mangwende out on the right wing and Mangwende showed the pace that the coaches know he has, to out-pace all the Wymondham defenders to get a well earned try for himself, and Archie Hill again slotted over the conversion.
Wymondham closed out the game with a couple more scores, for the game to end 19 – 42.
St Neots Man of the match was centre Aiden Jordan.
Head Coach Steve Gibson said after the game: "When you have a fairly new team and many new combinations, it will take time for us all to gel. But today we stuck together, played for each other and we scored 3 good team tries against a very strong opposition. We have things we need to work on but I’m confident we can improve and when the league starts we shall be ready, well drilled and we will win games if we show anything like the team-work and commitment we did today."Team
Jim Norton, Josh Lofty, Ed Hunt, Nick Ashford, Ross Hubbard, Keiran Martin, Cameron Howson, Rob Turner, Daniel Hill, Joe Woodgate, Dan Court, James Michael, Aiden Jordan, Prince Mangwende, Daniel MillerSubs
Joel Atkins, Archie Hill, Kevin Hilhorst, Matt Dawson, Ollie Donald, James Daw, Mick Cleary, Steve Gibson, Nigel Samm, Matt DohertyScores T:
Joel Atkins (1), Daniel Hill (1), Prince Mangwende (1) C:
Archie Hill (2) The league: Midlands 3 East (South)