March Bears triumph after colossal defensive display earns clean sheet
X.X. Super Deuxieme Nord Merit League: March Bears 6 Ely Development XV 0
A TITANIC defensive effort saw March Bears muscle their way to a vital third league win of the season by keeping a clean sheet against fierce rivals Ely.
The right boot of Matty Day proved the difference between the sides as the fly-half converted two first-half penalties to secure the points.
But it was a mammoth effort from the whole team, who avenged October’s 87-3 drubbing against the same side with a 6-0 triumph.
Coach Richard Horne said: “That was absolutely the best performance of the season. We’ve said that before Christmas was one season and after Christmas is another.
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“We are very proud. We tell them to forget about the scoreboard and think about their performance. This is a turning point for us. The whole club is going somewhere.
“They are now playing to a game plan. We had 21 players today and we took 11 to Ely last time.
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“The point is that the boys all now know what they need to do and they know what everyone else needs to do. They are controlling the ball and not making any rash decisions.”
The Bears started confidently at the Elm Road Sports Field, dominating the scrappy early stages with Day’s sensible kicking pushing the ill-disciplined Ely back into their own half.
But the home side failed to capitalise from several good attacking positions, as problems in the lineout restricted quick ball to the backs.
The Bears did take the lead after 20 minutes when towering centre Lee Brooks stormed through several helpless Ely defenders to win a penalty near the right-hand touchline.
Despite the strong wind, Day slotted the kick masterfully through the uprights to give March a deserved lead.
As Ely struggled to keep the errors out of their game, March began to find rhythm in theirs and the Bears won another penalty after a spell of sustained pressure on the visitors’ line.
But this time Day saw his kick come back off the upright denying March the opportunity to double their lead. Minutes later the referee spotted another Ely infringement but Day was again unable to take advantage.
The fly-half did kick his second penalty on the stroke of half time, judging the wind to perfection to send his effort sailing over the posts.
March began the second half as they had finished the first with the forwards working hard to get to the breakdown.
Ely seemed to run out of ideas, unable to pierce any holes in the ruthless March back-line, who were led by a powerful defensive performance from Brooks.
Skipper Aaron Boxall kept his troops fired-up and, together with tireless flanker James Hilliard, drove the March pack forward, preventing Ely from conjuring a comeback.
As the final whistle neared Ely did inspire some touchline nerves by running the ball deep into March territory, with a series of clever offloads.
But the Bears held out for a stunning win, which keeps them in ninth place of the X.X. Super Deuxieme Nord Merit League.
“They never looked like penetrating out defence,” said Horne. “All 19 men committed themselves and they never gave up.
“We will not get too excited. We want performances to continue like that. But we will take it one game at a time, keep training hard, try and improve our fitness and build on our performance every week.”
Next week the reinvigorated Bears will travel to third-placed Cambourne Exiles.