Claverdon 56 Atherstone 6
Midlands Four West (South)
CLAVERDON celebrated their 50th season in style against a weakened Atherstone side on Saturday, as both players and supporters alike nursed delicate heads following the club’s ‘Back to the 60s’ ball on the Friday evening, writes James Williams.
Both 1st XV captain James Williams and coach Scott Conduit had large concerns over the state of some of the players that would be arriving, most noticeably those that would be having a big impact on the outcome of the game, the forwards. Charlie Byrd, Harvey Skinner, Dave Carruthers and Ross Pollard, to name just a few, all certainly enjoyed themselves at the ball.
Following previous encounters against Atherstone, the Lions knew they were set for a physical encounter, largely contested around the ruck area with strong Atherstone runners coming down the narrow channels.
What came next was an outstanding display of power and skill as the forwards dominated for large spells and the backs were clinical with ball in hand.
The first half started with a bang. Claverdon received the kick-off and marched straight upfield. A change in the direction of attack and some quick hands saw Tom Johnson scoot up the left wing to crash through the full back and over for the first score. Doz Ward failed to add the extras, striking the upright from the touchline.
Atherstone came back strongly, increasing their tempo and aggression at the breakdown but failing to retain the ball for long periods. This hindered the hosts’ rhythm and they failed to gain momentum, often being one-dimensional due to the untidiness of the ruck area. Atherstone were rewarded for their effort with a couple of penalties within distance of the posts, but only one was converted, narrowing the lead to 5-3.
The next score would be crucial to stop Atherstone’s momentum and came in the form of a well worked try. Quick ball off the top of the lineout allowed fly-half James Williams to get behind the Atherstone back line, supported by Seru Rokotuiloma who in turn passed to Ward and the move was finished powerfully in the corner by Tim Westmacott. Ward narrowly missed the conversion from out on the right touchline.
Improved effort from Atherstone’s forwards was rewarded with a penalty which was calmly slotted, reducing the deficit to one score. Claverdon upped their efforts for the closing five minutes of the first half, failing to score from a catch and drive, but they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts and Ward extended the lead to 13-6 at the break.
The message at half time was simple. Play territory, keep the discipline and play simple effective rugby. The plan was put into practice as the Lions ran amok in the second period, scoring 43 unanswered points in a display of wonderful pace and precision from 1-15.
Tristan Hird, starting his first game for the club, scored his first try in Claverdon colours, supporting the ball carrier and then sprinting clear to score to the left of the posts. Ward added the two points.
The bonus point was secured shortly afterwards when an Atherstone scrum five metres from their line was passed back to their fly-half who was charged down, resulting in the ball going dead.
The referee signalled for a 22m drop out and immediately changed his mind, awarding a 5m scrum to Claverdon after realising the fly-half was inside the dead ball area. A strong base provided by the Claverdon pack allowed Williams to score under the posts and Ward again added the extras, increasing the lead to 27-6.
James Barton was introduced off the bench to add extra pace to the forwards. Barton, who has started at full back this season, soon scored after neat hands close to the ruck allowed him to stretch his legs, beat a couple of defenders and with a big hand off on the Atherstone winger he found himself with nothing between him and the line to make it 32-6.
Tries became a procession. The kick-off would be returned with interest and Claverdon were playing with great freedom and attacking instinct, punishing the tiring Atherstone defence.
An Atherstone scrum was sent backwards, the Claverdon pack turning the ball over with Barton breaking blind, drawing the winger and popping to Williams in support to cross over under the posts. Ward knocking over a simple conversion to make it 39-6.
Excitement on the touchlines
Screams from the touchline of “let’s hit 50” were heard and Claverdon changed gears again. The ball was caught off the kick-off and immediately shipped wide. Harry Cox provided the cut-out pass to Paul Daws and with ease he ran from the Claverdon 10m to score in the corner for 44-6.
It was a credit to the Atherstone players who kept coming at the Lions, but a poor clearance from the Atherstone 22 allowed Westmacott to run strongly through a couple of tackles and pop to Byrd in support to score under the posts. Ward took his tally to 11 for the game with an easy conversion and brought up the 50 points at 51-6.
With the traffic running heavily one way, Rokotuiloma took a crash ball close to the ruck and shrugged off the tired defender as he ran in for his first try of the season and then the final whistle was blown, with the scoreline reading 56-6.
Special mention must go to the Claverdon front row of Dave Carruthers, Steve Grimsley and Chris Glover who caused havoc in the loose but more impressively in the scrum, providing a secure platform for attacking ball and driving the Atherstone backwards on numerous occasions.
A break in action has come just at a point where Claverdon are gaining momentum with two wins from two and it will be important the execution and effort is taken into the next game at Coventrians on October 11.