Bedford Swifts 14 Claverdon 25
Midlands Junior Vase round two
A TWO-HOUR journey with 15 men was not ideal preparation for the Lions on Saturday, but they overcame their opposition from the same tier in the South East leagues in impressive style.
The home side were a much bigger outfit and boasted a healthy 20-man squad but, playing with the gale behind them in the first half, Claverdon were soon able to exert their dominance over their opposition as James Williams slotted over a simple penalty from in front of the posts.
Bedford struggled to get out of their own 22 as the wind forced any clearance kicks sideways or backwards.
Claverdon’s first try came courtesy of a 5m lineout when Nick Green scored his first try after he outwitted the Bedford defence.
There was no contest at the lineout from Bedford, who were expecting a drive, and this allowed Green to force his way through the middle and over the line before Williams added the conversion from the flank.
Travelling with 15 is clearly a risky tactic, although there was very little choice in the matter, and the nightmare got worse inside 15 minutes for the visitors when vice-captain Charlie Byrd broke with the ball, only to fall with a huge scream, and the game came to an instant halt.
Claverdon’s energetic 7 had dislocated his ankle, ruptured the ligaments and fractured his leg. Unfortunately his season is now over, but he is wished all the best in his recovery during which time he will be sorely missed.
Down to 14 men, it was time Claverdon who rolled up their socks. The wind helped and the lead was extended on the half hour mark when Williams switched the angle of attack and fed Johnson to score between the posts. The conversion was added and Claverdon led 17-0 at half time.
Even with the full complement, the second half would be difficult playing against the strong wind. However, the Lions defended resolutely and were holding their own against Swifts.
Although they found themselves camped in their own half, Claverdon did not shirk from responsibility. The lineout was still holding its own and from the scrum Claverdon held the edge.
The midfield battle was neither won or lost and time after time the ball would fall on to the Claverdon side to clear.
Time would tell and the effect of 40 minutes with 14 players took its toll as Swifts scored their first try with a fine break down the left touchline as the centre sprinted clear and beat the full back to the corner. The conversion was added to narrow the gap to ten points.
Claverdon, to their credit, hit back almost instantly. A superb mazy run from Jack Johnson ended up just short of the Swifts’ 22 and, with presence of mind to hit the blind side, man of the match Luke Allsopp beat the covering defenders to score although Williams missed the conversion into the wind.
Swifts did score a second try, in similar fashion to the first, as Claverdon’s weariness showed and Swifts moved the ball to the outside for their winger to dart down the touchline and score between the posts. The simple conversion was knocked over.
Swifts, with the wind at their back, now had the belief they had so lacked. Surprisingly they never seemed up for it until they had scored the second, even playing against 14 men and enjoying a significant size advantage in the pack.
However, with less than five minutes to play and the lead over one score, Williams put the game beyond their reach with a drop goal from in front of the posts.
Playing 70 minutes with 14 men shows the determination and hard work put in by every Lions player on Saturday in what was a real achievement against adversity.
Third placed Claverdon return to Midlands Four West (South) action at Coventry Welsh on Saturday.