Claverdon 28 Coventrians 7
Midlands Four West (South)
CLAVERDON enjoyed a bonus point victory in their first league game of 2015 on Saturday to return to second place in the table and open a four-point lead over third placed Evesham in the battle to join champions-elect Rugby Lions in securing promotion.
This was an efficient victory for the Lions against a Coventrians side who have posed many problems in the past.
With Evesham not playing on Saturday, Claverdon had the chance to reclaim second spot, but it was a tough test against a fired-up Coventrians side who, although sat at the foot of the table, have certainly ruffled a few feathers this season.
This was Claverdon’s first game back after a lengthy break but they certainly showed no signs of rustiness. After winning the toss, Claverdon played downhill with the wind to gather momentum and from the kick-off they hit the ground running. Big tackles, hard running and piercing lines blew Coventrians away in the early encounters.
James Barton scored the first try following a great break from Tim Westmacott. ‘Wessie’ cut what can only be described as a delightful line through the centres, drew the full back and popped to Barton for a stroll between the posts and James Williams added the extras.
Nick Marsh scored the second – his first try for Claverdon. The ball was worked wide to the right, where the forwards created good go-forward ball. The Coventrians defence narrowed, creating an overlap on the left.
The play quickly changed direction and found its way to Marsh who pinned back his ears and headed for the corner. It was a great finish for his first try and Williams added the extras from the touchline.
Coventrians’ response was fierce, but Claverdon’s defensive record has been the catalyst behind their success this season. One Coventrians chance was snuffed out by an excellent tap tackle from Conor Smith, just one of many examples of the ‘body on the line’ attitude this season.
The forwards continued to set a strong platform at the set piece, with Charlie Byrd and Tristan Hird habitually getting to every breakdown, and clever kicking from Smith and Williams kept Coventrians pinned deep in their own half.
Claverdon’s next score came from persistent pressure in the Coventrians’ 22 forcing the error. A solid 5m scrum allowed Williams to dummy and go untouched between the posts. He added the conversion to take Claverdon’s lead to 21-0 at half time.
The message at half time was clear – bonus point and clean sheet. Coventrians had other ideas though and upped their intensity from the restart.
The game became much more even and Claverdon did not enjoy the possession or territory that had seen them dominate the first half. Unlike the first where the backs were given the ball in space, the forwards had to do much more of the work. Chris Lowe, Steve Grimsley and Mark Tilson all did their fair share of the work.
The bonus point was secured with 20 minutes left when a catch and drive ten metres out trundled towards the line and, with the overlap close to the touchline, Williams wrestled over for his second score. Doz Ward added the extras from the touchline.
To their credit, Coventrians came back strongly, determined to get some points on the board. Ill-discipline saw Claverdon reduced to 14 for ten minutes but the defence held strong.
With barely a minute remaining a penalty close to the line allowed the Coventrians scrum half to shimmy past a couple of players and pop to the full back for an easy score – the first try conceded by the Lions at Ossetts Hole Lane this season.
Claverdon visit Coventry Welsh on January 31 before the crucial visit of Evesham on February 7.