Vikings beat St Francis to set up league decider this weekend
By James Mroch
St Jacques Vikings secured a good 5-41 away victory over St Francis on Saturday ahead of their critical final league match of the season this Saturday against Barns Green.
It was a very physical and lively affair with the hosts seemingly particularly up for the match from the very first whistle. At times tempers boiled over and by the final whistle the referee had handed out in total two yellow cards and then a red card against Vikings Tom Creed.
Ray Smart was short of backs for the match with injuries and unavailability mounting up, however the situation was worsened when centre Connor Sullivan was forced to pull out of the fixture through injury before the plane had even departed Guernsey. With no backs substitutes available prop Nico Ashplant who had played at centre in his youth days stepped up and did tremendously well with all things considered.
The Vikings were dominant in the early stages and scored three quick tries. They have recently acquired the services of several former Raiders in Dave Harvey, Darrin Bellingham and Dave McGall who have brought vital experience to what is otherwise a fairly young side.
One of these new additions Darrin Bellingham scored the first try from a driving lineout that started 10 metres out, the back-row collected the ball at the back of the maul and remained strong until the Vikings were over the line. Mitch Smith then got in on the act with his own try from close range before Bellingham scored his second try of the match. The Vikings now had a 17-point lead and were in total control and looked likely to pull away even further.
The visitors were finding themselves defending for long periods and when the hosts had the ball they looked dangerous in spells, particularly when their big inside-centre had the ball in his hands. St Francis did struggle to utilise this pressure to good effect though and although the Vikings were a little passive with their line-speed they defended generally very well.
St Francis did eventually score their only points of the game with a well taken try by their right winger. He collected the ball just inside the 22 and ran a good line to evade the Vikings defence to score an unconverted try.
Vikings Tor Ritchie-Bandy who had just come on to the wing from the bench quickly found himself on the wrong side of the referee, after he failed to roll away inside his 22. The referee adjudged his actions impeded a potential try scoring opportunity for St Francis and he was yellow carded. From the resulting penalty St Francis opted to kick at goal but their effort struck the upright post and the Vikings kicked clear.
With Matt Lomas currently playing for Raiders young Leon Collenette has been deputising excellently, and he produce a very assured performance on Saturday. He martialled his forwards well around the pitch and distributed the ball superbly, whilst also utilising his kicking options to keep the pressure on St Francis all game. Tom Veillard who is currently based in the UK whilst at university partnered Collenette at half-back, and he also played exceptionally well giving consistent fast ball to his colleague at first receiver which helped ignite the Vikings attack.
Barney Paul scored next for the Vikings to extend the lead before his fellow front-row colleague Alan Myers also scored to take the game well outside St Francis reach. The hosts then had their own player sent to the sin bin after their scrum-half became visibly aggressive towards James Mroch off the ball, the Vikings player did not react and the referee blew for a penalty and issued the yellow card.
The game began to open up in the second half as both teams tired, and the Vikings utilised this to great effect. Fullback Joe Le Roux and his two fellow wingers James Strang and Cameron Le Prevost were now getting the ball in their hands with plenty of space to run at. All three of them performed tremendously well although they did not themselves get on the scoresheet, with Le Roux picking up the man-of-the-match award at fulltime. For Strang it was his first competitive game having got back into playing rugby after a break since his youth years through the early stages of the Rabeys 10's competition, and pleasingly for the on-watching Ray Smart and Matt Chammings he showed the huge potential.
Tom Creed and Tor Ritchie-Bandy scored the final two tries for the Vikings before Creed was involved in an accidental tip tackle which resulted in a St Francis player falling head first onto the ground. The referee who had a very good game had no other option then to red card the second-row, but was quick to point out to both teams the offence was accidental. The St Francis player had to be helped from the field before the game finished off with several sustained St Francis attacks before the Vikings eventually turned the ball over and kicked the ball into touch to bring an end to the game.
The Vikings now move onto a must win title decider this Saturday at Footes Lane against second placed Barns Green who have still only lost to the Vikings this season. Kick off is 4.00pm after the Raiders vs Old Redcliffians.