22nd Nov, 2017

First win on the road sees Lions on the rise

Liam Moakes 7th Nov, 2017

Burbage 14 Claverdon 18

Midlands Four West (South)

CLAVERDON climbed into third place on Saturday as they grabbed their first away win of the league campaign in Leicestershire.

The Lions’ injury list had been a major concern in recent weeks, so it was time to call up the reinforcements from the 2nds in Al Bleby, Alex Haynes and Aussie Scott.

It was also the return of second row Nick Green who has been injured for two months so nobody was quite sure how this Claverdon pack would cope, but they need not have worried as the visitors’ engine room produced a solid display.

The first half was a frustrating affair for the Lions as they had around 70 per cent of both possession and territory but not many points to show for their efforts as chances were missed.

Claverdon started well, seeing a lot of the ball and a lot of territory. James Williams and captain Charlie Byrd linked well for Byrd to break up the wing and pop the ball to Jack Johnson, who got turned over on the try-line.

The Lions kept applying pressure, forcing Burbage into some decent defending for a long time, and Claverdon eventually had something to show for it when Burbage gave away a penalty right in front of the sticks to give Williams one of the easiest attempts for three points he has ever had.

Soon afterwards, the ball was shipped out to the backs and Peter Barnett ran around a couple of defenders and made a break up the wing. He would have scored in the corner but the referee decided he had been crossing with winger Tom Johnson and came back for the penalty.

The Lions were then denied again when Williams chipped over for winger Tom Johnson to run on to but a very unfortunate bounce of the ball prevented Johnson gathering for an easy run-in.

With a 3-0 lead, the visitors began the second half brightly but on 50 minutes things started to hot up when Burbage made a break with some decent offloading. They marched their way up the pitch and looked after the ball well to eventually score near the posts for an easy seven-pointer.

However, Claverdon were in no mood to roll over and Williams kicked the ball long. It was gathered by the Burbage winger around the 5m line and James Riley chased the man down, forcing the offload to the full back.

Little did he know Byrd was hot in pursuit where he could not be seen. The full back went to clear the lines but got blind-sided by Byrd who charged the ball down in the process and it rolled towards the line where it was gathered by Byrd to score between the posts.

Burbage meant business though and regained the lead with 15 minutes remaining. The hosts’ number eight had already been held up over the line twice in quick succession but eventually the pressure was too much and Burbage went over to score and lead 14-10.

Barnett and Johnson worked a good position and won a lineout for Claverdon 10m out. The ball was won cleanly by Scott and Steve Grimsley and the maul was set up and replacement Josh Smallwood did a great job of looking after the ball and steering the maul in the right direction.

Claverdon were 4m out and flanker James Barton decided enough was enough and took matters into his own hands, beating the last defender and scoring in the corner. The conversion was missed but Claverdon had retaken the lead with five minutes left.

The Lions then scored a penalty to extend their lead to four points and, although Burbage mounted one final attack, there was no way back for the hosts.

There were several Claverdon performances of note, including Williams whose kicking from hand was outstanding, wingers Johnson and Riley, the centre of partnership of Matt Dunster and Barnett and the debutants Scott, Bleby and Haynes.

Claverdon return to league action on November 25 at home to Coventrians, who are currently second. The 25th is also skipper’s night, so a busy day is in store at Ossetts Hole Lane.

Report compiled by Charlie Byrd.

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