Fortress Swaffham

STRONG foundations were built upon further at the ever-developing 'fortress Swaffham' this week as Swaffham dominated the fixture against their mid-table rivals Haverhill.

STRONG foundations were built upon further at the ever-developing 'fortress Swaffham' this week as Swaffham dominated the fixture against their mid-table rivals Haverhill.

The 26-3 win sees Swaffham move to fourth in the league, only four points off the top of the table with five wins out of seven in league matches.

It was Haverhill who took an early lead, despite a strong chase by the Swaffham pack after the lofted kick-off from fly-half Impey.

Swaffham made good tackles, but a clever chip from the Haverhill fly-half saw the ball bounce awkwardly behind the Swaffham defensive line, and in front of oncoming full-back Sparks.

As Haverhill retained the ball, Swaffham infringed at a break down and the penalty kick was duly converted by the Haverhill kicker.

These were the only points to be scored by the visitors, as the home side sprang to life.

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Within five minutes, the score was level as the ball was knocked on at the re-start by the Haverhill receiver.

The scrum was secured and the Swaffham back line was released, spreading play quickly through the hands to wing man Smolen.

The ball was retained as the forwards piled in, and runners coming off the ruck including prop Callaby and second-row Murray were ably supported by their team-mates in yellow.

A moment of indiscipline in front of their own posts enabled Swaffham's S Webb to kick a penalty goal to level the scoreline.

This spurred the team on, and from the re-start receiver Gunnell fed the charging Murray, who belted up the touchline before stepping inside to ensure the ball was retained in Swaffham's possession.

As the ball was fed to the back line, a high tackle on Impey saw Swaffham with another kickable penalty, duly converted by Webb.

Again, Swaffham made good use of the restart, working their way slowly back into the Haverhill half. It wasn't long before Swaffham had crept up to the Haverhill 10m line.

A good tactical kick behind the Haverhill line was chased superbly by centres Barnard and Johnson.

The subsequent tackles on the full back were strong and legal, and the unfortunate player was isolated and clung onto the ball too long.

The infallible Webb pushed the ball between the uprights at the ensuing penalty kick to take Swaffham's lead to 9-3.

Haverhill then got into the game again. A forward pass saw them with a scrum in the middle of the pitch on the Swaffham 10-metre line.

A clever move saw them surge into the 22 as their back row made extra numbers in the back line. However, hard hitting from everyone, Barnard in particular ensured no further progress was made, although Haverhill still retained the ball.

Eventually Swaffham won the ball back and kicked for the Haverhill corners. It was here that the ball was stolen from Haverhill, setting up a superb try from Gunnell who powered over the line to lengthen the score further. Webb duly converted taking the lead to 16-3 at half time.

The opening 20 minutes of the second half was all Haverhill, but as the score-line reads, they failed to cross the Swaffham line despite having the majority of both possession and territory. Time and time again they assaulted the Swaffham line with the forwards trying to punch through from all angles, and the backs trying to get in behind the home side. Good organised defence saw the likes of Gladman and Bird with opportunity to snaffle ball back Swaffham's side legally, and each time the ball was booted up field as Swaffham regrouped. Every man defended superbly and in regimented fashion, and with bodies being put on the line time and time again, it was clear to see why Swaffham take so much pride in their defence.

Skipper and second-row Chamberlain was relieved after 60 minutes by M Taylor, the captain still feeling the effects of a recent injury. Vice captain Ryan Gladman was on hand to take up the reigns of the Swaffham team, who pushed on for more points.

Eventually it was time to turn defence into attack, and Swaffham broke away through a quick penalty taken by scrum-half Morrissey. The ball was fed along the back line to S Balls who beat his man and scooted away, only to be collared by the covering back row of Haverhill.

M James was brought into the fray for prop Callaby, who had fought well in the scrum, and ran good lines in the loose.

Strong running from forwards James, Gunnell and L Webb in particular had moved the team up the field and Swaffham were in prime position again, only to have their ball deliberately slowed by an illegal Haverhill hand. Webb was called on again to nail the kick and he did so, taking his personal tally to 14 thus far.

Swaffham were pressured at the restart, but eventually broke well through the boot of Gladman who kicked into open space and charged after it, flanked on either side by Smolen and Barnard who could sense more points. Needless to say, the ball was won back Swaffham's way.

As Swaffham piled over the ball to secure it, the call was to spin the ball wide as a three man overlap had been gained from the short sharp punches made around the fringes. Scrum-half Morrissey fed Impey who in turn passed to Barnard. Stepping inside his man to fix him and straighten up, he then offloaded just before contact back to Impey who had looped round, and who finished a great passage of play off beneath the sticks.

Webb was never going to miss the conversion, and shortly afterwards the final whistle blew, Webb having kicked 16 of the 26 points, and Haverhill unable to cross the Swaffham line. Man of the match L Gunnell was rewarded for a great game at number eight, barely stoppable on the attack, and immovable in defence.