West Norfolk made the long away trip to Suffolk side Southwold on Saturday, retaining much of their starting squad from the previous week against Ipswich YM but also welcomed back captain Jack Wicks, with Dom Hubbard, Josh Nelson and Cameron Bennett stepping up as finishers on the bench. 

West kicked off and on a traditionally small pitch, Southwold began to put early pressure on. Captain Wicks led by example and supported by Dan Stephenson and Luis Costa, repelled the host’s attacking efforts with some textbook chop tackles. Unfortunately, this committed defensive play would see Wicks taking a significant friendly fire blow to the head, ending up with him going through the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) protocol and retiring from the game to be stitched up. West’s troubles soon worsened with a yellow card to Costa for a high tackle and another early injury, this time to stalwart Sam Moses. 

Southwold immediately took advantage, scoring two unanswered tries in quick succession to take a 14 point lead. Fly half Olly Denton and Hayden Revell attempted to mount a fight back, but despite a spirited effort, West could not gain the necessary momentum. Leading up to half time, West appeared to recover with No.8 James Dobbler and centre Jamie Williamson beginning to make dents in the host’s defence, seeing West force a penalty that full back Quinton Houston kicked to bring them within 10m of the Southwold try line. However, a fumble by West gave Southwold the ball and they would break through the attack, earning themselves a further three points through a kicked penalty. Southwold then added a further penalty before excellent work at the scrum by West prop Will Allen won the visitors another chance at a penalty. Revell opted to take a quick ‘tap and go’ play to run the ball 20m down field, improving West’s position on the field, before he made a pop pass to Dobbler who was,  in turn, taken out with an illegal tackle from one of the Southwold players. West took the kick for the lineout on the Southwold 5m line, but a resolute defence meant that the hosts held their line, welcoming the half time whistle.

The second half saw West start with much more energy and once again, Dobbler made yards to get West on the front foot following an early scrum before offloading to Revell, with Houston then being brought down illegally again by a poor Southwold tackle, earning West a kickable penalty. Unfortunately, luck would not be on West’s side as Revell’s kick rebounded off the upright and fell into the hands of the hosts. West put pressure on Southwold in their own half, forcing yet another penalty, with an accurate kick by Houston giving West a lineout on the Southwold 5m line. This time, through the safe hands of Dan Stephenson, West set up a perfect catch and drive play and with admirable patience, eventually West drove over the line for a try converted by Revell. 

Unfortunately West’s momentum would end here. With the game turning scrappy, including seeing two yellow cards being issued for West and one for Southwold, then slowed all the play down and the hosts took advantage of their superior numbers. Despite a courageous effort by the remaining West players, Southwold ran in four further unanswered tries before the final whistle would bring the game to an end. Adrian Flux man of the match was James Dobbler (sponsored by Trundley Group). 

West Director of Rugby Darren Clarke commented afterwards: “The long away trip to Southwold was once again beset by unavailability due to injury, work and holidays. I cannot fault the efforts of all those that came in but we struggled to cope with the physicality of the opposition. Again, we had very little luck losing captain Wicks in the first five minutes and then Moses shortly after. Three yellow cards also put us on the back foot”

“There were positives to take, especially the last 10 minutes of the first half and first 20 minutes of the 2nd. A new lineout functioned well on its debut and the players remain positive for the rest of the season.” 

Next week West 1sts are at home to Ipswich whilst the 2nds host Norwich Medics.