The clashes between Woodbridge and Crusaders are always tough, no more so than when they’re respectively 4th and 3rd in the league. Crusaders started with their tails up, fly half Ryan Harris shouting for his forwards to chase the kick down to the Warrior try line where they picked and drove several phases. Woodbridge ripped the ball and Capt Tom Stokes allowed JP Hart to clear, but the lineout fed Harris who broke free to run in unopposed and open the score.
Crusaders immediately attacked again, Capt Lewis Wright working hard to lead from the front. A scrum and a couple of penalties got Woodbridge just within kicking distance but Jamie Smith’s effort was short. Big Crus lock Henry Mower then joined the charge back, winning a penalty to gain the ground and force another attacking scrum. Under pressure the Warriors conceded yet another penalty and Crusaders released their forwards to batter down the left wing forcing full back Smith to call the mark. Crusaders pack became a thorn in Woodbridge’s side attracting the Ref’s attention and stifling possession. When the Warriors did get the ball they were forced to play it fast, Crusaders line speed stopping Woodbridge’s favoured open running. When they did make progress; Hart linking well with Stokes, Aldis Salavejs and Lewis Jacobs, Woodbridge opted to kick penalties but Smith was off form – getting one during the match.
Penalties mounted for both sides forcing play to stay mostly central until Crusaders charged from a line-out down their left wing to set up several charges on the line. Woodbridge, down to 14, cleared and Crusaders repeatedly went for the corner until on the third attempt Crus were rewarded as substitute forward Peter Blinkhorn scored from the maul. Both sides held their defensive lines against some increasingly bad tempered challenges during which Crusaders lost a man to the bin – but the scores stayed 12-3 at the break.
The home team started the second half in the same manner as the first, using their hard-working forwards; Henry Joy, Vincent Cook, Sam Barker and flankers Callum Widdrington and Wright to bash their way up the right wing in front of a noisy, well fed home crowd. Woodbridge found a clearance kick but penalties gave Crus control to dig in on the Warrior 5m line. The kick away missed touch and opened another period of gut-wrenching tackles with both sides flat out to get the upper hand. With the visitors under the cosh there was an effort to pressurise Lewis Kenworthy Crusader’s full back but the chase was short and even when Woodbridge got the ball Crusaders squeezed the off load, interrupted the flow and put them on the back foot – Smith missing another penalty. Crusaders centre Tim Zeilinski put in a darting run that started another period of pressure, Crus kicking over and forcing a scrum form which flanker Widdrington scored a cheeky try by dabbing down before Jono Cooke could defend.
After such an intense session tiredness began to creep in and small bursts of short temper. Both sides got yellows and tackles became looser. Woodbridge started to make some space to attack, Adam Plummer and Hart moving play from side to side but Crusaders had it covered, despite being penalised, their floating defence ambushed repeated assaults. Crusaders held the deserved win with noisy team spirit.
Crusaders 19 v Woodbridge Warriors 3