SAFFRON Walden RFC bounced back from last week’s season opening defeat at Brentwood with a much-improved performance to record a satisfying 24-5 victory against Ely.

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The first half was dominated by strong defensive play from both sides. Walden’s forwards in particular looked much sharper and more determined to tackle lower than they had in the previous week.

On several occasions, Ely advanced to within 10m of the Walden line only to be pushed back.

The breakthrough for Walden came in the 25th minute when the ball was fed out to the backs relishing the extra width of the large Ely pitch. Winger Dominic Fanning was on hand to open his try scoring account for the season in the left corner. Scrum-half Dan Rust showed good technique to convert from wide out.

Second-row pairing of Jed Butler and Freddie Jossaume began to dominate forward exchanges. Flankers Josh Curtis and Ciaran Woods both disrupted Ely attacking moves before they were able to develop, and full-back Josh Flack showed how dangerous he can be in the loose with some devastating glimpses of pace and body-swerve.

On 29 minutes, centre Andrew Smith broke through the Ely defence on the 10m line, accelerated away from his opposite number and touched down between the posts. Rust again added the extras and the half-time score was 14-0.

It was Ely that started the second half more brightly, Walden seemingly surprised by the strong running and conviction of the home side. After several phases of play, Ely manufactured the ball on the blind side for the winger to score in the left corner.

This lapse only served to spur Walden on to register the score of the game. On 15 minutes, ever-improving fly-half Jesper Walker kicked long from the hand towards the Ely 22-metre touch line.

Flying winger Fanning chased down the dangerously bouncing ball, forcing the Ely full-back to knock the ball into touch. Fanning saw the opportunity to take a quick line-out to scrum half Rust.Sensing the scoring opportunity, first Rust and then Walker both came close to the line but were pushed back by the retreating Ely defenders.

Substitute forward Ollie Ellis was the first forward to catch up with the fast-moving play. Calling for the ball 5 metres out he was able to crash over and, to the delight of his team-mates and the watching crowd, recorded his first try since April.

The backs sealed the victory with another superbly executed move. Attacking the opposition 22 metre line, Fly-Half Walker saw a gap to punt the ball through the approaching defensive line. Centre Smith timed his run through to perfection, picked up the bouncing ball and sprinted through to score his second of the game to make the final score 24 – 5.

The improvements in performance from both backs and forwards sets up the team perfectly for the first league fixture of the season next week, away at Harlow.

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