Coventry Welsh 12 Claverdon 7
Midlands Four West (South)
CLAVERDON’S promotion hopes were dented on Saturday as they suffered a surprise loss at lowly Coventry Welsh which, coupled with Evesham’s thumping home win over Atherstone, saw the Lions drop below the Worcestershire side into third place on points difference.
Claverdon now face a crucial home match against Evesham on Saturday, which both sides will head into on 42 points with six matches remaining, as the battle hots up to join runaway leaders Rugby Lions in winning promotion.
The Lions were poor on Saturday as they lost only their third league game of the season.
It would be very easy to make excuses for the loss, as four 1st XV players were absent skiing, two were injured in the warm-up and two more took heavy knocks early in the game which forced substitutions – made even worse by the fact those eight players were all forwards.
However, in truth, Claverdon were not a patch on any performance they have put down this season. If the team had continued at the level they had set themselves, the squad available should have still produced a good enough performance to come away with victory.
Special mention must be given to Jack Yates making his first team debut, Ant Jay for playing his first 1st XV game for a while and Seru Rokotuiloma who moved from inside centre to Number 8.
For the first 40 minutes, the game was a relatively tight affair. Claverdon had a large share of the possession and the territory playing with the wind, but were unable to find the cutting edge and discipline that has been key to the team’s success this season as penalties at key moments allowed Cov Welsh to clear their lines.
Claverdon threatened their opposition’s line first, however, and Tim Westmacott was unlucky to be tackled just short of what would have been a superb solo try.
Welsh scored the only points of the first half. Their simple game plan of one-out rugby drew the Claverdon defence narrow, allowing their winger to dart down the outside for an easy score in the corner. The conversion was missed and the score 5-0 at half time.
The message to the Lions at half time was clear – step up in every department – as the areas that had been solid were now frail and lacked any sort of aggression.
The theme for success has been aggressive defence and breakdown work, but there was not one big tackle or one turnover in the game.
Claverdon started the second half with a string of penalties to the corner. The visitors were again enjoying the larger share of possession, but the conditions were difficult and the ball rarely made it away from the set piece.
Welsh extended their lead with a second try when a rare spell in the Claverdon half allowed them to work the ball to the right and score in the corner before a brilliant kick into the wind saw the ball land on the crossbar and over for the extra two points.
With 15 minutes left, Claverdon burst into life. Nick Marsh chipped and chased inside his 22. The ball was moved quickly between the hands and, had it not been for a fine tackle five metres out, Claverdon would have had a walkover.
This bit of magic seemed to ignite some fire in the bellies and the workrate, intensity and everything else that had been lacking finally came to life, but Cov Welsh did not intend on letting their lead slip.
A break from James Williams got Claverdon on the board and he added the conversion to bring Claverdon within five points of their hosts.
They were now knocking at the door regularly and James Barton had a try ruled out rather dubiously for a forward pass, whilst Tom Johnson and Paul Daws both went close.
It proved too little, too late, however, as a further penalty allowed Cov Welsh to clear and from the resulting lineout clear into touch to seal a deserved win.
Claverdon now look forward to Saturday’s VPs fixture against Evesham as the sides prepare for a straight shoot-out for the second promotion spot.
All support is welcome at Ossetts Hole Lane as the red and whites seek to make amends.