Claverdon 16 Coventrians 15
Midlands Four West (South)
CLAVERDON staged a superb fightback to clinch a third successive league win and haul themselves into the thick of the promotion race – moving to within four points of their second placed visitors with a game in hand.
Saturday’s victory set up a night to remember at Ossetts Hole Lane as the much-anticipated skippers’ night lived up to expectations, but more importantly the Lions had a crucial four points in the bag after recovering from a nightmare start in which they conceded three tries in the opening quarter.
In fairness, Coventrians finished their opportunities well but Claverdon were their own worst enemy in defence. All three tries came from a missed tackle and Coventrians had a few backs who were very hard to deal with when they got the ball in space.
Luckily for Claverdon, all three conversions were missed which proved to be crucial with the final score. Soon after the first try Claverdon did score from a penalty in front of the sticks to soften the blow, but it did not take long for Coventrians to score their second and take a 10-3 lead after ten minutes.
This was a worrying time for the home team who had not really turned up and it took until 15 minutes for Claverdon to actually put some phases together and look after the ball.
After 20 minutes Claverdon missed another tackle and allowed Coventrians to score their third try, but there was then a clear turning point in the match.
The Coventrians winger who was causing havoc gathered the ball but, after evading a couple of Claverdon tackles, he ran into the brick wall AKA James Barton and a perfectly legal but brutal tackle saw the Coventrians winger have to take a few minutes to recover.
There was a clear mood change among the Claverdon players and it was now their time to shine. A period of sustained pressure inside the Coventrians 22 finally showed on the scoreboard.
Multiple phases and good patience from the Claverdon forwards created an opportunity out wide for James Williams to slip through and score, but he failed to convert his own try.
Claverdon did miss out on a couple of other opportunities before half time after decent breaks from Mikey Jay and Jack Johnson as good covering defence from Coventrians prevented more Claverdon tries.
Claverdon started the second half the same way they finished the first, with territory and possession very much in the home team’s favour, which came from a solid performance from Claverdon’s tight five.
Debutant Lewis Wright proved to be an outstanding recruit who was a rock in the scrum alongside Al Bleby. Good back-up from Chris Glover and the return of Nick Green was providing a good platform in the scrums and quality ball for Will Lawton who was bossing the game well.
Steve Grimsley was hooking the ball against the head and his throwing in the lineouts was on point as always. Claverdon’s driving maul was proving to be a useful weapon and after 55 minutes was the catalyst for a classy try.
The maul headed upfield and the home team went through the phases. Once again good patience and multiple carries through the forwards created the space out wide for Jay to give the killer pass to James Gibney who raced for the line and scored in the corner. Williams missed the conversion but Claverdon were now trailing by just two points.
The Lions kept applying the pressure and were very determined in defence, led by the back row of James Kirby, Barton and captain Charlie Byrd who were throwing themselves at everything and winning a few turnovers for their troubles.
Coventrians did have a couple of opportunities in the second half but were repelled as a result of Claverdon’s hard work in defence.
The winning moment came ten minutes from time when Claverdon won a penalty on the Coventrians 22 and Byrd immediately opted for the posts.
Williams was cool under pressure, squeezing the ball past the upright to put his side ahead before the game ended with a Coventrians penalty in front of the sticks about 30m out.
With the referee announcing last play of the game, this kick would decide the outcome of the match, but fortunately for Claverdon the kick was wide and the final whistle was blown.
On Saturday the fourth placed Lions visit Coventry Welsh – a place lower but level on points having played a game more.
Report compiled by Charlie Byrd.