On Saturday London Nigerian travelled to Borehamwood to play Old Haberdashers for the 5th game of the season.
London Nigerian arrived at the Old Haberdashers grounds full of confidence and excited about playing on the wide and well tended pitch before them. However, it was an inauspicious start to the day when during pre-match lineout practice prop Nathan Tomlinson suffered a gash to the lip that required medical attention and ruled him out of the contest. Despite this injury, which brought front row replacement Ed Vaughan into the starting lineup, a smooth and error-free warm up left the players eager for the match to kick off.
It was clear from the very first play that this was going to be a tough fought match as strong Habs runners repeatedly sought to break through gaps in the Nigerian defence. Although training in recent weeks had focussed on defensive organisation, it wasn’t long before London Nigerian found themselves spread too thin across the wide pitch. This allowed the Old Haberdashers No.8 to breakthrough a gap in the midfield resulting in an early try for the home side.
The strength and pace of some of the Habs players, particularly at 8, 12 and 13, would regularly seek to exploit these gaps throughout the match. It took too long for the Nigerian players to adjust to this tactic and through this method resulting in a further two tries to Old Haberdashers in the first half.
Throughout the first half London Nigerian were able to string together multiple phases, penetrating into the opposition 22. This was helped by the capable kicking of Olly Cox who repeatedly punished Habs penalties by pushing them back to their own 5m line. However, skilled lineout opposition and all-round defence meant that London Nigerian were never able to come away from any of these sorties with points. By halftime the score was 19-0 in the home sides favour; but the discussion at half time was positive with Nigerians confident they could gain a foothold in the game if they could be more clinical in the red zone.
The second half started much the same as the first with strong runners and consistent phase play drawing out the best of both sides defences. This led to long periods in the second half grinding in to a stalemate. The physicality of the game soon showed with winger Joe Harris having to leave the field with a gash to the head. Unfortunately, due to injuries in the wider squad, this meant flanker Caolan Cotter had to move into the backs as replacement forward Will Jackson came off the bench. This reorganisation highlighted the strength and versatility of the Nigerians players as the team began once again to knock on the opposition try line. Despite a tenacious defence from Habs, repeated attacks soon left enough of a gap for Adam Foley to wriggle his way out of a tackle and over the whitewash.
Unfortunately, London Nigerian weren’t able to build on this momentum, and many subsequent attacks were snuffed out by a well organised home defence. Towards the end of the match as players on both sides began to tire, Habs were able to capitalise on further gaps to score two further tries including a well worked improvised try 5 minutes from the whistle. With the final play of the game it looked like Habs would be able to put one last try past London Nigerians but for a last ditch tackle causing a knock-on and finishing the game.
The game finished 31-7 to Old Haberdashers although the score line did not reflect how close and hard fought the contest was for long periods of the match. Next week sees a break from the league as London Nigerian travel to Crowborough to start their cup run of the 2016-17 season.