Thorpe bows out in style
Diss 52, Haywards Heath 0: With the threat of relegation lifted, Diss played sparkling rugby in the sunshine at Mackenders. This was possibly the best performance of the year, with a new style and speed of play evident in all aspects of the game.
Diss 52, Haywards Heath 0
With the threat of relegation lifted, Diss played sparkling rugby in the sunshine at Mackenders.
This was possibly the best performance of the year, with a new style and speed of play evident in all aspects of the game.
Ali Butler returned to the second row alongside his brother Stuart, and Carl Smith returned on the wing. It was good to see Will Farrer back on the bench, having broken his arm in the returned match in October.
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A large crowd greeted the teams, all enjoying a perfect afternoon for watching, if not playing, rugby.
A knock-on by Haywards Heath led to immediate pressure on the visitors' line. From the resulting scrum Steve Hipwell picked up and scored in the corner. Chris Beaird was unable to convert from out wide.
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The Diss pack began to control the scrum and the loose, allowing the backs to move the ball wide, creating attacking opportunities everywhere, and a run by Andy Thorpe and offload to Deaglan Hall led to another try for Hipwell, converted by Beaird.
Ten minutes later another pick up and run from the base of the scrum by Hipwell created the opening for Beaird to run through, with the final pass going to Andy Thorpe to score in the corner, which Warren Wilby was unable to convert.
The second half started with a kick and chase from Thorpe before Haywards Heath were stopped by a try-saving tackle from Wilby.
From a line-out Diss then stole the ball and Thorpe cut through the defence for his second try, converted by Beaird.
By now the Diss pack were regularly winning the scrum, even against the head, by sheer power and from a stolen ball, Hipwell passed to Matt Gardner, who put Thorpe into the corner for his hat-trick, on what was to be his last game of league rugby - a fitting way to bow out.
Hall had been replaced by Andy Horne, and soon after Matt Richards was replaced by Josh Williams. The next scrum was immediately turned by Diss, and from the resulting play Pete Bray appeared at the bottom of the pile to score the try. Carl Smith was replaced by Farrer, back with his power running and tackling.
Diss then stole the ball on the visitors' throw, to put Wilby away, but a desperate last ditch tackle saw him bundled into touch. Diss had a series of drives to the line stopped, and eventually the referee had had enough and awarded a penalty try to Diss, kicked by Beaird.
The last play of the game, saw Diss catch and drive from the line-out, with Hipwell twisting through to score. Ali Butler, also playing his last league game for Diss, stepped up to take the kick - suffice to say Jonny Wilkinson's job is safe.
The win provided a fitting farewell for director of rugby Henry Lind, who stood down at the weekend after countless years service to the club.
His legacy is that the club is in the highest position that it has ever achieved.
Head coach Gavin Brock, has been helped in the last weeks by USA National Sevens coach Drew Fautley, who has been taking coaching sessions and working with individual players, and he has bought a different angle to training and play. When other commitments allow he will return to Diss next season to help with the coaching.