Watford’s 1xt Xv won their first cup competition for a generation with a hard fought 5-3 win over Old Verulamians in the prestigious Hertfordshire Presidents Trophy Final. The victory was especially sweet given the opposition had won the competition for the last two years and play their rugby two leagues above Watford.
Inspired by comments in the programme stating that Old Verulamians were ‘patently too strong for this competition’, Watford tore into their illustrious hosts from the kick off and soon forced a turnover in midfield. Hopkins hacked through and looked to have won the chase to dot down following on from an OV’s fumble, however the referee decided otherwise and awarded a 5 metre scrum. Watford were enjoying the upper hand at the set piece, Wilson and Hicks turning the screw at the scrum. A series of drives close to the line by the Watford pack saw Makinson stopped inches short of opening the scoring. The close call seemed to stir Verulamians, who began to enjoy a greater share of territory and possession. In truly horrific conditions, Watford were on the receiving end of some debateable refereeing decisions. Fortunately the OV’s fly half’s radar was off, and the scores remained level. With nearly half an hour played, Watford open side Dunlop was judged to have strayed offside at the ruck and was somewhat harshly sin binned. Down to 14 men, Watford showed the spirit and heart which has characterised their progress in the competition this year. Phenomenal defence and counter rucking ensured the underdogs line was never really under threat, with Reeve and man of the match Martin Lee putting in some huge hits. As the deluge continued, the half time whistle was blown with neither side able to open their account.
The second half was an equally attritional affair, with neither side asking or giving quarter. OV’s finally opened the scoring with a penalty after Watford were penalised at the breakdown. Going behind forced Watford to yet again up their game - roared on by a large travelling contingent and inspired leadership by Flint, skippering his last game for the club, all 15 players dug deep and went on the attack. A penalty was forced, and McGee stepped up. His effort fell just short, however an excellent chase from Tucker meant to ball was fumbled behind the Verulamians line. Reeve and Dunlop both followed up, the former just beating his back row colleague to touch down. The conversion was missed, meaning that with 15 minutes left to play there were only two points in it. OV’s launched a series of raids deep into Watford territory, only to be repelled time and time again. The turning point came when Dunlop forced a penalty at the breakdown, allowing Watford to clear their lines and hold on for a memorable win, every single player exhausted but victorious.
Skipper Flint struggled to put his sides achievement into words. “This is the culmination of six weeks hard work. Ever since we won the semi final, all our training sessions have been geared towards this including training at weekends. Every single player who pulled on the shirt today ran themselves into the ground for the club and each other, I can’t even begin to say how proud I am. I also need to thank the supporters. They gave us the passion and belief to dig deep and find an extra 10% when we are all running on empty – I can’t praise their contribution enough. We are going to celebrate long and hard tonight!”
Watford 1st team - 1. Gary Wilson, 2. Ricky Flint (Cap) 3. George Hicks, 4. Marcus Makkinson, 5. James Powell, 6. Greg Reeve, 7. Paul Dunlop, 8. Martin Lee, 9.Ollie Hopkins, 10. Tom McGee 11. Richard Yates, 12. Andy Lee, 13. Tom Kiely, 14. Rob Langan, 15. Scott Menzies, 16. Sanchez, 17. Simon Tucker, 18. Ian Butcher, 19. Paul Wilson
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