A large crowd, swollen by a coachload from Crusaders, gathered in anticipation of this annual clash – the Warriors keen to avenge the 12-32 away loss in December. The start couldn’t have been any better – hooker Dan Bond retaining kick-off ball and then acting as right winger to grub kick through to Sam Jackson who scored wide within a minute. Crusaders chased their restart to win a penalty just outside the home 22 and Theo Elliott slotted the three points. Crusaders continued to exploit the long kick to get in behind the home defence, winger Luke Jacques coming under particular pressure, JP Hart returned the favour but play remained up the Woodbridge end, wing Jamie Dack leading a charge and exploiting weak set pieces from the Warriors. Crusaders made good use of the maul first to win a penalty and then their strong pack shoved prop Henry Joy over for a try. A nervous Woodbridge restarted poorly losing a scrum and allowing Elliott to break, Rog Craigs to offload to full back Ryan Harris who broke a tackle from his opposite number Jamie Smith to score. Immediately Jacob Bodkin took the opportunity for three points from a restart penalty and maintained pressure from more penalties, Hart, Cooke and Bodkin all having threatening runs but the visitors defended well and continued to dominate in the set piece, they also mauled well, favouring the blind side but giving away too many penalties. Nevertheless play stayed uncomfortably deep in the Warriors 22 for Tony Gibson, Tim Johnson and Rob Attwater all having to counter some low drives from the Cru’s pack before the break.
Woodbridge restarted well, holding their line-out and challenging the Crusader’s 5m line but tough tackling from James Durrant, Vince Cook and Rob Dye meant they had to settle for a penalty attempt which they missed. Play stayed in the visitor’s half as their scrum domination was negated by penalties and forward passes. Having failed to gain any points from a sustained attack the Warriors were then forced back into defence as George King and Jack Boorman took cleanly from a line-out and lead a series of pick and drives, returned clearance kicks and mauls. Home supporters were then pleasantly stunned as a 40m run from Hart and Bodkin made the next try look easy to break the impasse. Bodkin converted his own score and the kicking tennis continued between Hart and Harris until a mark was called and, peculiarly, Cru’s chose to run it Will Bennet stole from the ruck, Olly Gray offloaded to Hart – on quickly to Jackson who ran in the try which Bodkin converted. Crusaders had another penalty attempt at goal only to kick wide and as the clock wound down play reflected the visitor’s desperation – another poor lineout and scrum from Woodbridge in the danger zone saw Elliott score from a quickly-taken penalty leaving 5 minutes and 4 points in it. Crusaders stayed camped on the Woodbridge 5m line forcing some epic defence from Gibson and his pack as the noisy crowd made itself heard but it was the defence that held, the touchline cruelly denying a last minute effort from Rob Dye. In the end 3 tries and a penalty each with Bodkin’s conversions sealing the Woodbridge win.
Woodbridge Warriors 22 v Crusaders 18