Claverdon 3 Evesham 20
Midlands Four West (South)
EVESHAM secured a potentially decisive victory in the quest for promotion as they saw off their main rivals Claverdon in impressive fashion on Saturday.
This was a first home league defeat of the season for the Lions and secured Evesham the league double over the Ossetts Hole Lane side, but more importantly moved the second placed Vale outfit four points clear of third placed Claverdon with just five matches to play, whilst leaders Rugby Lions continue to boast a 100 per cent record at the summit.
The 150-strong home VPs crowd were in high spirits and keen to roar Claverdon on to victory, but Evesham had other ideas.
Again missing key players in key positions, this was going to be a challenge for the Lions. Indeed, Dave Carruthers landed off a plane at 11.40am but managed to get there in time to start, albeit coming off after the first scrum with a torn calf.
After winning the toss Evesham opted to play against the elements in the first half and knew playing uphill for the first 40 minutes was going to be tough, but they took on the challenge.
Indiscipline in the early encounters due to over-eagerness meant Evesham trailed 3-0 after five minutes to James Williams’ penalty.
If anything, this gave Evesham the wake-up call they needed and they instantly hit back.
The visitors established early dominance at the set piece and used this to control field position and possession.
Despite the home side’s impressive defensive efforts, Fraser Goggin managed to elude his tackler and wriggle over midway through the first half and the score remained 7-3 until half time following Michael Harris’ successful conversion.
Claverdon did respond well to Evesham’s try as James Barton and Paul Daws returned the ball with intent, while the forwards worked hard to retain possession.
However, Evesham made life difficult at the lineout with two excellent jumpers and their superior pack weight meant scrums were a mess for Steve Grimsley, Anthony Jay and Mike Jay, but they all coped superbly.
At the start of the second half Claverdon pressurised their opponents into mistakes.
The tempo was increased and Evesham found themselves on the wrong side of the referee’s whistle. Barton was unlucky to have a score ruled out after the pass to him was adjudged to have been forward, whilst Williams had the chance to narrow the gap with a penalty attempt that drifted wide.
However, this was Claverdon’s last real chance, as Evesham finished the stronger of the two sides.
Evesham aimed to play the second half deep in Claverdon territory to continue to take the sting out of their boisterous crowd and solid game management from Harris and scrum half Dan Humpston ensured Evesham could set up camp and increase the pressure.
As the second half continued the set piece dominance continued and Evesham’s scrum began to power through their opponents, even having a 20m shove at one point.
All this pressure deep in Claverdon’s territory allowed Humpston to cross for a converted score and the outcome was put beyond doubt when two more penalties – awarded at the scrum and slotted over by full back Sam Hopkins – sealed victory.
Evesham, whose next league game is at home to bottom placed Coventrians on February 21, are now in pole position to claim the second promotion place as they have a favourable run-in compared to Claverdon, who still have to host Rugby Lions.
The result may not have gone the Lions’ way and promotion hopes may be hanging by a thread, but there was true Claverdon spirit and pride shown for 80 minutes against a very good Evesham side.
Claverdon’s next league match is a visit to Five Ways Old Edwardians on February 21.