Crows secure London 3NW survival with bonus point win over Cosmos
By Lee Gilbert
Royston secured another season in London 3NW next year with a crucial win against close rivals Kilburn Cosmos on the weekend
After a positive performance at promotion contenders Datchworth last time out Royston welcomed close rivals Kilburn Cosmos to the Heath this Saturday knowing a good performance would go a long way to securing their status in London 3NW for another season. Once more, a mixture of youth and experience was incorporated into the match day squad, with several Colts given another outing after performing well in the last game.
Royston played into the wind in the first half knowing they’d have to be disciplined to prevent large territorial gains by Kilburn and they started the game well. Possession was well retained, and forward momentum was evident across the park, forcing Kilburn to concede several penalties that eventually led to fullback Will Dacey slotting the first points of the day for a 3-0 lead after ten minutes. Royston continued to spread the ball wide whenever possible as they looked to get the Ritsema twins into space at every opportunity. However, Royston’s ill-discipline and execution began to waver, and a poor scrum led to a Kilburn turnover that eventually resulted in the first try of the day after several pick and goes on the Royston line, converted for a 7-3 Kilburn lead midway through the half. Further pressure from Kilburn should’ve resulted in a second try shortly after but somehow a bouncing ball in the Royston in-goal area was knocked on with no-one in close attendance. Reprieve welcomed, the Crows finally started to get back on the front foot through the forward pack, who apart from the scrum above, were dominating the physical forward battle at every opportunity, with 65kg Luke Townsend at flanker putting big hits in all day. After several hard carries by the forwards, scrum half Adam Smith darted through a gap and found second row Lee Gilbert in close support. Gilbert beat the first man and then offloaded back to Smith who then seemingly put winger Ben Ritsema in at the corner, only for him to be dragged down short. Undeterred, Royston mayhem’d their way to the line, with prop Ollie London crossing for the try. I repeat, prop Ollie London crossed for the try. A well-struck conversion by Dacey rebounded off the post but Royston were back into the lead at 8-7. Royston controlled the remaining exchanges of the half but unfortunately butchered an attacking line-out right on half time to turn around with a one-point lead.
At half-time Royston introduced Charlie Sparkes and Matthew Muirhead from the bench to bolster the forward pack for the second half, with the Green twins (Jamie and Mark) departing for a well-earned rest. With the elements now in their favour, Royston would just need to be patient to eek out the win their performance was deserving of at this stage.
Royston continued where they left off in the first half with a strong forward platform allowing the backs to create space out wide and make good yardage. From a Kilburn line-out in their own 22, Gilbert managed to steal the ball without any elevation at all that allowed number eight Louis Dummett to rumble up close to the Kilburn line. A dart down the blind by Gilbert was well-repelled but his offload put second row partner Aaron Taylor on a hard-crash line to within inches of the Kilburn line. Quick recycling allowed prop Sparkes to crash over but he was held up in the act of scoring, with cries of desperation emanating from key supporter Vik Hulström on the touch line. Much like the key attacking line-out of the first half, Royston switched off at the resulting scrum and the ball squirted out to the backs when the push over try was the intended play. Nevertheless, Royston retained ball in the Kilburn half, and when their scrum half was sin-binned for a high shot on Dacey, he duly stepped up the edge Royston further ahead on the score board at 11-7. From this point, Royston really turned it on. With Kilburn pressing hard on the Royston 22, a Joe Butcher-esque grubber kick was gratefully gathered up by Smith and he cantered a full 75m to score Royston’s second try of the day, Dacey once more hitting the post with the extras. Shortly afterwards a well-executed blind side move off the scrum allowed Smith, Muirhead and Gilbert to make significant yardage before Gilbert knocked on. However, excellent scrum pressure from the Royston eight forced Kilburn into a hurried clearance that was well fielded by the Royston backs. The golden “two passes” later, and outside centre Euan Rees scorched into the corner for a third score of the afternoon, conversion missed by Dacey. With Royston in the ascendency, they pushed for the bonus point try and after Ben Ritsema had been unleashed down the right-hand side of the field, his twin Dan was set free down the left after an excellent pass by outside half Will Cottrell to once more score in the corner. Faced with his most difficult conversion of the day, Dacey duly slotted it right between the uprights to extend Royston’s lead to 28-7 with about twenty minutes to play. With the game suitably “won”, the Crows completely switched off and were punished by two quick scores by Kilburn, both converted to narrow the lead to just seven points. Shaken, but back to the task at hand, Royston edged their way back into the game once more. An excellent turnover by Taylor allowed Dan Ritsema to break the line once more but the ball was knocked on. However, Royston quickly turned the ball over once again to put Rees and Ben Ritsema in space down the right-hand side with Ben once again stopped short. A few more forward carries on the Kilburn line eventually resulted in Muirhead barging over for his sixth try of the season. Although unconverted by Dacey, the try extended Royston’s lead to fourteen points with just minutes to play. To be fair to Kilburn, they pushed hard in the final few minutes and were rewarded with a converted try in the last play of the game that meant they left the Heath with two points themselves.
With Verulamians losing heavily once more on the weekend, coupled with Royston picking up the maximum five points on offer against Kilburn, ensures the Crows are safe from relegation with four games left to play. This is a great achievement for Royston, and one that needs to be built on for the rest of the season as they seek more wins from their remaining games.