Swaffham swoop into final
THERE was eager anticipation in the crowd as this was a chance for Swaffham to reach their second rugby final in four years.And the dream became reality as the home side dominated the fixture against Lakenham Hewitt, winning 61-0.
THERE was eager anticipation in the crowd as this was a chance for Swaffham to reach their second rugby final in four years.
And the dream became reality as the home side dominated the fixture against Lakenham Hewitt, winning 61-0.
The team will relish the opportunity of silverware when they play the Norfolk Plate final at home on April 26.
The game got under way from the boot of Swaffham's Mark Lines, and straight away it was advantage Swaffham as the Lakenham receiver knocked on.
Bizarrely, Lakenham were awarded a free-kick at the scrum. They chose to clear their lines.
From the superb Swaffham line-out, thrown by Gunnell, the backs made their intentions quite clear, running superb lines and making crisp passes out to J Taylor at outside-centre, who needed no encouragement to surge over the line for 5-0 to Swaffham.
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Lakenham then enjoyed a few moments possession as D Bartlett was adjudged offside chasing a good kick from Lines. At the ensuing Lakenham line-out, Swaffham knocked on in the air, but the resulting scrum was ruined by the guile of flanker L Webb.
He snaffled the ball as it squirmed out of the scrum and showed deft handwork to set DJ Barnard free.
Barnard, in turn, fed J Taylor, and there was no stopping him despite having 40 metres to eat up to the line. The conversion was nailed by kicker S Webb and Swaffham were 12-0 up.
Good territory was gained from the boot of Lines and led to a line-out steal as skipper Chamberlain dominated in the air. The backs' play was as perfect as the first try, and the result matched as Bartlett zipped past the final defender to score. A missed kick was rued by kicker Webb but Swaffham were leading by 17 unanswered points after just 10 minutes.
Finally, Lakenham got some time in possession, winning a penalty for hands in the ruck, and collecting in the ensuing line-out.
Swaffham were on the back foot as a scrum was awarded to the visitors, but the defence was commendable as Swaffham repelled each and every attack of their line with grit and tenacity.
Eventually, the hard hits told as Lakenham knocked on in contact and Swaffham cleared their lines.
Tom Murray was ploughing into rucks, and the whole of the Swaffham team upped their intensity and physicality at the contact areas. Winger Smolen joined the party, pole-axing his opposite man who spilled the ball into touch. From the line-out, which was won by the high-rise Matt Taylor, the pack exhibited their malling skill as they rolled onwards to the line where number eight Gladman put ball to ground, 22-0 after 25 minutes.
Following good play by the visitors in the tight, where the experienced Lakenham forwards excelled, a kick ahead was pounced on by pace merchant Bartlett, who beat four tackles as he charged up the touchline.
The referee, who made some questionable decisions throughout the game, adjudged that a defender was obstructed by a Swaffham player and Bartlett was denied a second score.
However, there were to be two more scores before half-time. Matt Taylor, ever-alert on the blindside flank, was on hand to touch down as a Lakenham scrum crumbled under the force of the home side pack.
Smolen also scored on the tick of
half-time, finishing a backs move beautifully as he handed off and rounded his opposite winger to score, 32-0 to Swaffham at half-time.
Swaffham rang the changes bringing Harris on for L Webb on the open-side flank, number eight Wood on for Gladman who had taken a knock and Palmer on for the tiring Sparks at scrum-half.
Prop Callaby was playing a blinder, working hard in the scrum but making good yards in the loose as well.
Substitute Wood brought fresh fight to the ruck situations and fought hard for the turnover that led to J Taylor's hat-trick try. The ball won back, scrum-half Palmer released the backs and it was Bartlett's pass that set JT free in space and he was in for a memorable score.
Young Hamilton had a good game on the wing, his pace and power put to good use as the opposition tired. D Bartlett, who had been superb all game, was brought off for the experienced P Taylor at full-back.
Three Taylors were on the field, but the saying 'three's a crowd' was not to come to fruition here as Matt Taylor put in a big hit to dislodge the ball from a Lakenham centre.
The fresh-legged Paul Taylor was on hand straight away to grubber the loose ball through the resulting gap, and it was the pace man James Taylor who followed. The ball bobbled up delightfully into his waiting arms and he sailed under the posts for his fourth.
Soon after, Swaffham again undid the Lakenham defence as Smolen plucked the ball from his toes at the end of a string of passes. He again stepped his opposite man to scramble over.
James Taylor got his fifth to take Swaffham over the half-century mark. Again it was big defence that created the opportunity from nothing. The outstanding Smolen put everything into tackling the Lakenham outside-centre. Despite it being well into injury time he dug deep and found the pace to finish.
A fantastic effort from the young man, but there was another score to come; Smolen getting in on the hat-trick act before the final whistle.
Thurlow Nunn MoM: James Taylor.