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Home > News > Westoe v Loughborough Students preview
Your News Westoe v Loughborough Students preview

WESTOE are in cup action on Saturday against some of the brightest young things in British rugby.

Heading for Tyneside in the second round of the EDF Energy National Trophy are Loughborough Students from the Leicestershire-based university which proudly and with full justification boasts of “unrivalled sporting achievement” for almost a century.

During that time it has produced 80 future rugby internationals - as well as Clive Woodward, who managed England’s 2003 World Cup winning side - and so one or two major stars of tomorrow may well be on show.

It is, as the Wood Terrace faithful will well remember, the second time that they have come to town in this competition, Gareth Nesbit’s side winning 21-10 in a gripping contest on the corresponding Saturday two years ago.

But it could have been different had not the students, who trained with the England squad, twice blotted their copy book.

Winger Andrew Wright touched down after his 30-yard defence-splitting dash ended under the posts in the 67th minutes - but the pass he had taken at top speed was forward.

Then came a gaffe by fly half Toby Henry when he nonchalantly drop-kicked the ball over after a Westoe infringement in front of goal. But the referee had awarded a free kick and not a penalty, so a conversion was not an option - though a five-metre lineout might have borne fruit.

That was in the past, although what is likely to remain constant is the speed of their youthful backs, yet a pack that was never quite equal to Westoe’s strong and street wise forwards.

This season, with twin Kiwi speedsters Sam Rasch at fly half and Willy Moala on the right wing, the Dunes Adventure Island-sponsored Shieldsmen have expanded their pack-orientated game to encompass more expansive play.

But they have the experience and expertise to close things down if the whiz kids get too smart in the open.

At the time of the previous encounter Loughborough were in Midlands Two (East), a stratum below Westoe, but two consecutive promotions have enabled them to leap-frog to a level ahead in National Three (North).

There they are just about holding their own with four wins and a draw from ten games that has put them fifth bottom of the 14-team division. They have not travelled well, though, losing all but one of their five away games.

They did, however, come storming through the first round of the cup when, as hosts, they gave fellow league members Harrogate a 73-12 drubbing.

Nes said: “They will be professional rugby players in everything but name, practicing several times a week. They will be fit and fast and want to play expansive rugby.

“Certainly nobody in our squad will be at all daunted. While we take into account what they will be capable of and what their game plan might be, we are more concerned about concentrating on our own game and getting it right.”

Including the first round win at Bedford Athletic, Westoe are on an eight-game victory roll which has put them alongside Hull at the top of North One.

The captain added: “While cup rugby does not have the same pressure as league games, we will be trying our utmost to win this one for various reasons

“There is pride, we just don’t like losing, especially at home. And if we advance in the competition we could find ourselves playing a National One side and that would be just fantastic.

“But mostly it is because we have three very big games coming up before Christmas against Sheffield Tigers, Birkenhead Park and Hull and we want to go into that on a winning streak and not a downer.”

*Flying flanker Kerry Wood is still away on honeymoon and lock Matthew Muchall missed his last game before flying off to Australia to play cricket because he was best man at his brother’s wedding, a duty that prevented Peter Nichols from playing at Cleckheaton last week.

As club chairman and Fist XV manager Duncan Murray quipped: “Don’t people know there is a proper time to get married - they call it the cricket season!”

*The game and match ball are being sponsored by local car firm boss Vic Young, who is the Fourth XV sponsor and long time club benefactor.

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