Claverdon 7 Upton 8
Midlands Four West (South)
THERE was late agony for the Lions on Saturday as they were edged out by a well drilled and efficiently organised Upton outfit.
Having seen a 7-3 lead turn into an 8-7 deficit in the final quarter, the hosts had a chance to seal victory at the death when James Williams stepped up to take a tricky penalty ten metres from touch on the left-hand side, but his effort sailed agonisingly wide and Claverdon had to settle for a losing bonus point as they suffered their first loss of the league season, whilst the visitors maintained their 100 per cent record.
Claverdon failed to get out of the starting blocks and struggled to get any foothold in the game with limited possession and territory.
However, despite having a large share of the ball, Upton failed to make any real inroads beyond the Claverdon defence and it was clear from the outset this was not going to be a high-scoring game.
If Upton were rarely threatening the try line, Claverdon threatened it even less. The final pass or kick was not accurate enough, but credit must be given to the Upton defence which was impressive throughout the day.
Much was made of Claverdon’s defence last season, but Upton’s defence was the key to their victory. Claverdon were not helped by the loss of their No 8 and coach Scott Conduitt who adds a lot of weight into the pack, whilst Tom Sparkes also replaced the injured Nick Marsh.
The only score of the first half came courtesy of an Upton penalty from in front of the posts and at half time the message was clear to the hosts.
Claverdon had not turned up in the first half but found themselves 3-0 down and very much in the game. Now playing with the slope and with a large Ossett crowd to get behind the boys, Claverdon needed to blow their opposition out of the water in the first ten minutes.
The intensity was stepped up and the tempo picked up. The Lions started to turn over ball and enjoyed much more possession and spent much more time in the Upton half.
It was, however, Upton who created the first real try-scoring opportunity when a break down the left saw their winger heading for the corner before a covering tackle from Williams knocked the ball out of the Upton player’s hands as he dived for the line.
Claverdon were unable to get their centres Seru Rokotuiloma and Tim Westmacott into the game as any half chance or half break was snuffed out by the Upton defence.
Any ground that was made was made in the close quarters and Chris Glover found himself stealing the ball out of a maul to go unnoticed as he darted down the wing. It is a shame he does not have the speed of Carlin Isles otherwise he would have been over in the corner.
Claverdon did get on the scoreboard though. Indeed, perhaps Chris Robshaw may have been watching somewhere in the crowd, as a kickable penalty to tie the game was rejected and Claverdon nudged into the corner.
The ensuing lineout was halted, but the decision paid off and, after a couple of tight phases, Marc Spencer scored in the corner.
This brought a huge sigh of relief from the Claverdon boys who had ignored the coaches’ orders from the touchline and Williams added the extras to put his side four points ahead with 20 minutes remaining.
If truth be told, neither team really looked like scoring a try, and Claverdon knew if they could refrain from conceding penalties the game should be theirs.
That was the problem though, as a lack of concentration left Mark Tilson on the blindside on his own facing a two-on-one and the Upton player galloped down the touchline before Williams came across to make another ‘try-saving’ tackle.
He bundled the Upton player into touch – taking out the corner post in the process – and the linesman initially seemed to point at the line, indicating the player had been forced into touch.
However, he said putting his flag up as part of his running style was the reason for the confusion.
Regardless, the try was awarded and the conversion missed from the touchline and Upton led 8-7.
The drama did not end there and Claverdon knew they would get one shot if they worked hard enough for it and sure enough it came.
A penalty was awarded ten metres from touch on the left-hand side and conveniently the kick was delayed by an Upton player receiving treatment less than a foot from the ball.
Williams stepped up knowing this was the final play but unfortunately his kick flew agonisingly wide of the left-hand upright and with that miss went the game.
In fairness Upton probably deserved the victory given Claverdon’s first half performance, but the Lions are confident the reverse fixture will be a different story.
Third placed Claverdon’s next league game is a trip to Alcester on October 10, but before that the Lions have a home match on Saturday against Aldridge in the Midlands Junior Vase first round.