Rugby: Wisbech and Ely Tigers play out rain-soaked draw

Wisbech in action against Ely Tigers. Photos by Steve Wells

Wisbech in action against Ely Tigers. Photos by Steve Wells - Credit: Archant

The sodden weather conditions proved to be the real winner in the Fenland derby as Wisbech and Ely Tigers played out an entertaining draw on Saturday.

The first half was influenced by the heavy rain with both sides making handling errors, slowing the play down.

The game began with Ely on the offensive in Wisbech’s half with the Wisbech defence up to the task, repelling the Ely runners and turning over several breakdowns earning important penalties allowing Wisbech to get out of their half.

Ely‘s Scott Macfarlane was sent to the sin bin after collapsing a maul, but even with 14 men on the pitch the Tigers didn‘t concede any points as the wet conditions took their toll on the quality of the first half.

After twenty minutes of relentless defence, Wisbech were finally able to get hold of the ball and make good yards, picking up penalties from a shaken Ely defence.

For the first time, Wisbech made their way down into the Ely 22 with the opportunity to go for points from a breakdown penalty.

William Malkin missed the long kick but shortly after another Tigers penalty was won and this time they opted to kick deep into the Ely 22.

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A handling error from the ensuing lineout gave a scrum to Ely to relieve the pressure and clear their lines. Three quick penalties in succession allowed Ely to march straight up the pitch and given an opportunity to take the first points of the match.

Unfortunately for Ely, the kick was missed and Wisbech were let off the hook.

Shortly after the half-time whistle blew with the score board locked at 0-0.

The second half started very much like the first half, with Ely pressuring deep inside the Wisbech half.

The Wisbech defence held firm but the relentless defending was starting to take its toll and for the first time in the match, Wisbech missed a tackle as Ely burst through on the blindside.

Wisbech Full-back Nick Esser was up to the challenge and made the tackle to snuff out the attack as Ely fired off a warning shot of their capabilities.

Ely were then given a penalty and the opportunity for points. Joel Scott Paul converted the three points on his second attempt, with the first being hindered by a crowd member whistling loudly to put him off. The referee brought it back for a second attempt, and the Ely kicker took his opportunity as Ely opened the scoring and lead 3-0.

Wisbech responded well to falling behind; they flew into Ely and were rewarded with their own penalty shot at the posts. William Malkin calmly slotted the kick to draw level again at 3-3.

Mid-way through the half, Wisbech captain Ben Prestidge received the ball on the blindside with an over-lap in front, drew in the defenders and released the ball to Lewis Newman who raced away to score in the corner for the first try of the match. Malkin was successful with the conversion from the touchline to open up a lead of 10-3 in favour of Wisbech in an otherwise close affair.

With time running out, Ely desperately needed points and disaster struck for the away side when John Dibb was yellow carded for repeated penalties.

Down to 14 men and on the half way line, the Tigers launched the ball down the blindside to Matt McCarthy. He stormed down the wing, stepped the first defender and handed off the second. He dived and reached over for a converted try to level the score at 10-10.

With minutes left Wisbech were desperate to reclaim the lead pressuring Ely. With the final play of the match Ely gave away another breakdown penalty on the 10 metre line and gave James Malkin the opportunity to take the win. In the wet conditions, the kick proved too much as it narrowly missed before the final whistle went.

Wisbech coach Leonard Veenendaal spoke after the draw, saying: “Rugby can be a cruel game as we played really well only to draw at the death. Our defence was outstanding and I am really proud of the boys.”

The stalemate leaves Ely Tigers in second place in the Eastern Counties Greene King Division One, with Wisbech occupying sixth place.

Both sides have a week to wait for before their next fixtures, with Wisbech taking on Woodbridge on Saturday November 7 and Ely coming up against Wymondham in a top-of-the-table clash.