Westoe v Crusaders

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On the 19th September, the crusaders made the journey over to the north east in high spirits after the convincing win over Billingham in the previous week.

With Richard Liddle sidelined and John Bowman making the step up to the first team, Jack Oddie was handed the arm band.

It didn’t take long before Westoe drew first blood. From a scrum in the Carlisle 22 – the crusaders seemed to be absorbing the pressure well, but then the Westoe back line combined well to find a gap in the defense for an easy try.

From the restart, the Carlisle pack were aggressively relentless to win the ball back. After consistent pressure – the Westoe backs received poor ball, and with an ‘in their face’ style defense from the Carlisle backs – the Westoe full back buckled under pressure spilling the pill in to the hands of Jack Oddie, who ran under the posts for a converted try.

Gary Graham

Gary Graham

A very even half saw pressure from both parties. Quick ball from the menacing Aron Murray at nine allowed the brain and agility of Matt Rogers to release inside centre Paddy Macdonnell on the Westoe midfield, and a back row of Stew Graham, Callum Gray and especially the young Gary Graham were both aggressive and hard working in their plight to win the ball.

But that wasn’t without Westoe playing some attractive and attacking Rugby football. Carlisle were organized in their defense. And although Westoe came close, Oddie halted an attack down the wing, Joe Harrington and Stew Graham were consistently menacing in protecting the fringes of the breakdown and Chris Fairclough made the tackle of the game by literally putting the Westoe eight on his backside two metres behind where he met the shoulders of the promising front rower, preventing a sure try!

The next twenty minutes saw a battle of the boots, with Carlisle’s Chris Kersop and Westoes ten almost taking turns to convert penalties. As half time drew close, Carlisle looked to keep the ball in hand to see out the half, but Carlisle were penalized for illegal play on the floor. The quick tap penalty saw Westoe expose a gap in the retreating Carlisle defense, then with an overlap; Westoe converted their chance with some handling that defeated the Carlisle men that were working hard to prevent the try.

This certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of the Carlisle men, a towering restart from Rogers allowed Gary Graham and Stew Graham to bury the Westoe catcher with Scott Squire and Richard Yardley firing in to turn over the ball. Carlisle began to play now, with Macdonnell skinning his defender and breaking in to space. With this break; the pill went through the hands, but the relentless Westoe defense were tireless in their efforts to prevent the try. Carlisle played fast, punchy phases and soon Westoe were penalized for their efforts to halt the surging Cumbrian attack, as some handling on the floor gifted Kersop an easy three points in front of the sticks.

After the last say of the first half, and the sun behind them; the Crusaders began the second half with a united belief and determination; and this was obvious in the way Carlisle began the restart. An early Kersop penalty brought the boys two points behind. Then consistent forward play proved problematic to the larger Westoe pack, especially with the power and athleticism from the young Gary Graham, the sheer power, chat and organization of Scott squire and Aron Murray bossing his pack around the park. Carlisle continued to make ground with Murray and Rogers releasing forwards like Ross Allan, Rob Cullon and Chris Kersop punching holes.

When the time was right, Rogers demanded the ball and Carlisle began to play wider. Now we could really use our quick lads Jack Tranter, James Armiger and Callum McSKean.

Westoe did well to defend the power of the likes of Squire, Ross and Grey and the blistering pace of Armiger, McSkeane and Tranter for so long. But eventually, the ref spotted an infringement and Carlisle gained a penalty. Unfortunately, this was the one kick the consistent Kersop missed, but Carlisle returned as determined. Rogers played his clever, little balls in the faces of Westoes back line, allowing McDonnel and Oddie to gain valuable yards in midfield. Carlisle had gelled and were looking dangerous. Hard work from the likes of Fairclough, Callum Gray and Stew Graham allowed Murray to continue to unleash Tranter on to the Westoe Defense. Carlisle were bossing the game, as the Cumbrians made ground, Rogers dropped in to the pocket. Murray ordered his pack over and gave the Crusaders 10 the ball in a promising area. Unfortunately, the towering Westoe seven did exceptionally well to close Rogers down and deflect the pill away from the sticks!

The Carlisle boys weren’t finished though, more pressure followed; but the Westoe defence continued to hold their fort. Then, totally against the run of play, Carlisle found them selves isolated in their attack; a quick turnover from the Sand dancers and, once again, slick hands – released the Westoe winger to stretch his legs in space from his own twenty two.

The converted try certainly didn’t dampen the Carlisle spirits, but it raised Westoes.

Liddle made changes to try and give energy to the Carlisle XV. David Benson, Rob Cullon and Dion. These changes injected a tactical boot, hard work and pace to the effort.

Carlisle were now on the back foot, but killing the attack when they could. Graham and Graham were still clearing up at the breakdown. The effort soon became in vein though as Westoe simply sucked the Cumbrians in a little, then played behind the centre’s with the back three – resulting in three tries before the final whistle.

Certainly the score line didn’t reflect the game, and the Crusaders are relishing the opportunity of the reverse fixture.

A lot of positives to build on, and a mention must go to the young lads of Graham, Alan, Cullon and Benson making their impression on the senior game.

The Crusaders will be looking forward to their travels to Darlington next week, but Liddle will certainly be having selection problems after so many strong performances.

Jack Oddie got man of the match, and Gary Graham was a close second.