Rugby: Eton Manor 29 Southend 12
PUBLISHED: 14:00 03 September 2018
Eton Manor got the new London One North season off to a winning start on a day of mixed emotions at the New Wilderness.
Saddened by the passing of Manor legend Russell Stock earlier in the week, the club held an official opening of their new artificial pitch, with their first fixture preceded by a lunch attended by dignitaries from the RFU and Essex RFU as well as club officials from Eton Manor and their opponents for the day.
Manor’s Under-13 boys and Under-18 girls both played matches by way of curtainraisers and, after the pitch was officially opened by the Mayor of Redbridge, the main event got underway.
Southend until a few years ago were plying their trade two leagues above Manor, but after a few tough seasons they found themselves relegated twice into the same league as the Wanstead club.
And in front of a crowd of more than 300 spectators Manor kicked off with a fine hanging kick from Jack Emerson, before debutant Paddy Sheehy led the chase and won the ball in the air, knocking it backwards for Manor to gather and drive into the heart of Southend’s defence.
As Manor built phases the ball went out to another debutant Aaron Lowe who put in a clever grubber kick in behind the advancing defensive line. Elliott Brown spotted the opportunity and chased after the kick, gathered the ball and headed towards the line only to be brought down inches short by an excellent tackle by Southend’s scrum-half.
As he went to ground Brown tried to offload the ball to his supporting players but the ball went forward and Southend had survived Manor’s first attack.
Manor didn’t have long to wait for their next scoring opportunity as from the resulting scrum they put pressure on Southend’s pack and as the visitors tried to run the ball from deep ferocious home tackling drove the ball carrier into touch for an attacking lineout eight metres out.
With Matt Oaks playing his first game in over a year, throwing in, Harry Reid secured the ball and Manor set up an unstoppable driving maul that saw Jack Sullivan, himself playing his first game after nearly a season out injured, drive over the line for the first score.
Emerson added a well-struck conversion from out wide and after five minutes Manor led 7–0.
Southend soon showed their class when after a sustained period of possession in which they drove continuously at Manor’s defence, they managed to work an overlap and fed the ball to their burly winger who crossed for a try which was converted to make it 7-7.
The visitors were having the larger share of possession now and looked dangerous with ball in hand, but Manor had been working hard on their defensive patterns and Southend couldn’t breach the blue line and eventually when an attacker got isolated with the ball, Oaks pounced and won a penalty allowing Manor to relieve the pressure.
Southend continued to attack and Manor did not help their cause by giving away a number of unnecessary penalties, this allowed their rivals to work they way into kicking range before taking a shot at goal from yet another indiscretion. Luckily for Manor the relatively simple shot at goal was missed.
Manor now got on the front foot attacking inside Southend’s half, where Emerson put in a towering kick which Manor chased and won but at the ensuing ruck Southend’s openside was yellow carded for dangerous play.
This gave Emerson the chance to have a shot at goal from 30 metres which he successfully converted to put Manor 10-7 up after 25 minutes.
Southend went back on the offensive helped by Manor’s indiscipline and worked their way into the 22 for an attacking lineout close to the line. But a poor throw allowed Misiona Evagelia to grab possession and drive the ball upfield before Emmerson put in a long clearance kick to Southend’s 22 where the ball was kicked dead giving Manor an attacking lineout.
Manor were now camped inside Southend’s 22 but despite a number of powerful runs they couldn’t break through the defences and were eventually penalised allowing their opponents to clear the danger.
With the first half coming to a close it was Southend who finished the stronger, with Manor again falling foul of the referee who eventually lost patience and sent Sheehy to the sin-bin for persistent offences.
Southend seized their chance and enjoyed a sustained period of attacking pressure before they again managed to work an overlap for their winger to dive in at the corner for their second score and a 12-10 lead at the interval.
The visitors began the second half and Manor had the better of the early exchanges, once back at full strength, as Robb Falls came on for his debut in place of Sheehy.
A penalty on halfway saw Nick Horton send a long touch kick deep into Southend’s 22 for an attacking lineout and with the throw going to the back for Falls to gather, Manor set up another powerful driving maul that saw them go over the line where Reid was credited with the score.
Emerson was again successful with the conversion and Manor moved 17-12 up.
The pattern of the game remained unchanged with Southend having more possession but being met by stern Manor defence which repelled everything their opponents threw at them.
When high kicks were put up Manor again dealt with them and used them to counter attack with Elliott Brown on more than one occasion making good ground into Southend’s half.
Manor’s penalty count continued to rise and they were soon down to 14 men again when after a number of penalties against the team, Evagelia found himself off the park for 10 minutes for persistent team offences.
Southend continued to attack with their main threat coming from their bulky winger who took play into Manor’s 22 before Reece Reed brought him to ground, Sullivan reacted quickest and turned the ball over before feeding Emmerson who launched a counter attack from deep inside his 22. After making ground he kicked ahead into space for George Harman to chase and he won the footrace to gather the ball and take play close to Southend’s 22.
As he was about to be tackled he kicked ahead, taking the ball to Southend’s try line, and substitute prop Michael Byrne showed great pace to beat Southend’s chasing defenders to get the vital touch on the ball to score Manors third try in the corner for a 22-12 lead with 15 minutes left.
Southend again came back at Manor when one of their second rows made a clean break down the middle of the park before linking up with support and only a crunching tackle by Falls, winning a scrum for a knock on, stopped a possible score.
Another debutant Cameron Dutch replaced Emmerson at fly-half and his excellent clearance kick took play into Southend’s 22 to allow Manor to make their opponents have to attack from deep. This they did as they attacked along the flanks where a late tackle by Reid saw Manor’s second row become the third home player to be yellow carded.
Southend chose to take a scrum rather than kick to touch and with Manor putting pressure on the feed, the ball shot out of the back of the scrum, where Horton was quickest to react, scooping up the ball before sprinting 35 metres unopposed to the try line for Manor’s bonus-point try.
Reece Reed took on the kicking duties and slotted over an excellent touchline conversion extending Manors lead to 17 points with time almost up.
The game finished with Southend again trying to breach Manor’s defences, to no avail, as the home side showed great teamwork, exceptional defence and ability to take their scoring opportunities.
The seconds won with a last-gasp penalty against a very good Southends to complete a great day for the club on a special day and next weekend sees Manor face HAC, who showed their intent with a high-scoring win at Luton.