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  • Writer's pictureBen Macintyre

Hard work finally pays off to beat reigning champions

The first bluebells in spring, the first ray of sunshine in the morning, the first load of corn at harvest. They all bring a sense of hope, joy and pure elation like almost no other. Yet nothing can compare to the first win of the season.

While Fortress Cryfield was finally broken last season after 3 years of unbeaten dominance. With last weeks draw against Birmingham and now a win against Oxford, the last two weeks have brought a new hope that such a run could begin again.

As with all matches WURL partake in, the week began with calls round the club to check on injuries and illnesses but with only a couple of players out, a strong side was finally announced.

As the game approached, the referee appeared, early and organised, demanding paperwork so it was clear that at least one element of the game was in safe hands.

The team marched out of the changing room and, for the first time all season, everyone was actually there on time. This meant an organised warm up and a settled team took to the field for kick off ready for a tough test against last years league winners.

The Warwick team were conceding on average half a foot and 20kg to their opposite number in the middles but it was clear from the start that the lack of size was made up for by an abundance of heart. Early tackles came flying in and carries were made with seemingly endless energy. However, for the first try, no carrying was required. Strong tackles forced an Oxford error 40 metres out from their own line and from the resulting scrum, Brad Sheridan kicked in to the corner on first tackle. The cries of dismay from the forwards who were envisaging another big defensive set about to begin were soon drowned out by celebratory cheers as Tom Palmer collected in the in goal area and scored. The conversion crept wide, allegedly because Brad couldn’t see where the posts were in the low sunlight, and the score was 4-0. Warwick managed to force repeat sets in the Oxford half but the wet ball prevented any expansive play and the Oxford forwards tackled hard and the home team failed to capitalise. Oxford then managed to get some good field position in the Warwick half and some well run backs moves found space in the corner and it was soon 4-4. The rest of the half was played out without either team having much solid attacking ball but, after some good kick pressure prevented Brad finding a kick to either touchline, a chip through the middle for himself was dived on under the posts just before the covering defence made it across and the teams went in to half time at 10-4.

Throughout the second half, tired legs and minds began to tell as balls were dropped and there was significantly less fluid play from Warwick but Oxford appeared to find some confidence and began playing some better attacking rugby. They took advantage of some tired defending to cut through the middle and score under the posts to level it up any 10-10. As penalties began to mount for both teams, WURL managed to march up the pitch before finding themselves starting a set of six only 20 metres out. After five attempts to batter through the Oxford middles were fruitless, a cross field kick from Brad found Joe Laverty who worked an offload to Sam Walton who managed to slip it away to Harry Fallows to dive over for his first try for the club and to was 16-10. Exuberant celebrations followed as the first win of the season felt close but there were still nearly 20 minutes to go. Oxford were still confidently proclaiming it was their game to win as they set up for kick off but it wasn’t long before Warwick scored again with a penalty, for kicking a player on the ground, sent through the uprights to make it a two score game. Oxford came back strong and, after a wonderful kick meant they started their set 10 metres from their own line, some horrific tackling, started by a tame attempt from loose forward Adam Cox, let Oxford run in from 90 metres out and bring the score to 18-16. It required some heroic defence from Warwick to stop Oxford going ahead soon after as they had many overlaps that they looked set to convert before well-organised pressure or a big hit forced the error. WURL did eventually force their way towards the Oxford line and Brad dropped the goal to bring his personal tally for the game to 11. As the away side tried to force a winning try, Warwick began to look tired and ragged but Pierre-Louis managed to turn the ball over in midfield and with 2 minutes to go the game was safe. Both Pierre and the referee insist this was done legally and with our reporter facing the wrong way we will have to believe it despite Pierre’s fear of contact suggesting it was unlikely.

The jubilant scenes at the final whistle were the sign of a team who has been unlucky not to have one already and were a visible showing of relief that the heart, determination and pride in the badge that has been evident all season has finally been rewarded.

Warwick move on to next week and another big home game against Coventry. See you all there.

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