Claverdon 18 Stoke Old Boys 14
Midlands Four West (South)
CLAVERDON returned to winning ways in the mud at Ossetts Hole Lane on Saturday against tough opposition in the shape of Coventry outfit Stoke Old Boys.
After an ill-disciplined performance the previous week in the cup, it was important the Lions put into practice what they preach and ensured the penalty count was kept to a minimum.
Encounters between these two sides are always hotly-contested and this was no different as neither side was willing to give an inch.
Claverdon were boosted by the return of Mark Tilson, Seru Rokotuiloma and James Barton to the starting line-up, but were still unable to field a large number of first team regulars.
The first half was a credit to the game of rugby as hard running, big tackles and strong set-pieces from both sides was evident.
Claverdon looked to use their slight advantage up front and negate the speed and power of the SOB’s back line, who looked dangerous when given the opportunity to show their moves.
It was Stoke who took the lead when a break following a poor Claverdon kick and chase left the defence stretched.
SOB would have scored had it not been for a fine cover tackle from Andrew Smith, but the ball was shipped to the opposite flank and a huge overlap was duly accepted by the openside flanker to touch down between the posts and the conversion was duly added.
Within a few minutes Claverdon had their first score when a clean break from fly half James Williams – supported rather amazingly by Scott Conduit who in turn fed Chris Lowe – took the ball to within a couple of metres of the SOB line.
Quick hands on the blindside allowed Smith to touch down for the score one foot from the touchline, although Williams could not add the conversion from the flank.
Both sides were reduced to 14 men following some handbags between the SOB blindside flanker and Rokotuiloma, so Barton moved from the back row to the centres to ensure both teams were playing with one less flanker.
With the contest in the balance, a mistake would prove costly. SOB moved the ball wide from the break down and seemed to have an overlap out wide, but Tommy Williams made a monstrous tackle on the SOB winger who had tried to ship the ball on, only managing to pop it into the grateful arms of Tom Johnson who raced 50 metres to touch down between the posts. Williams added the extras to put Claverdon 12-7 up.
Claverdon enjoyed a better spell of possession and territory with the numbers reduced and extended their lead further with a penalty from in front of the posts to lead 15-7 at half time.
Playing downhill and with the wind at their back in the second half, it was a straightforward tactic to ensure the win – play for territory and make SOB run from deep.
The second half was largely played in the SOB half as the pitch tore up and conditions became very difficult.
Williams kicked in behind wingers and for touch where Harvey Skinner was outperforming the SOB lineout jumper and causing a nuisance. As tension grew, so did the ferocity of the breakdown, with both sides guilty of infringements and gifting territory away.
The talking point of the game came on the hour mark. SOB kicked the ball through for Johnson to clear up and a pass inside and a late tackle from the SOB replacement caused ‘TJ’ to kick out in frustration.
With players rushing in from either side and some unnecessary comments being aimed in certain players’ directions, a fracas ensued.
Claverdon were reduced to 14 when Rokotuiloma was shown his second yellow card for further handbags and the SOB substitute was also shown a yellow for the initial late tackle as the period ultimately spoiled a good game.
Claverdon extended their lead through another Williams penalty and tried to extend their lead yet further with a catch and drive from the lineout, but SOB managed to clear their lines on numerous occassions.
Back to 15, SOB tried to exert their advantage and got within a metre of the Claverdon line and captain Williams was also sent to the bin for a knock-on which prevented a try-scoring opportunity.
With 13 men, Claverdon defended valiantly, however it was not enough and SOB scored a seven-pointer to move within four.
The last 13 minutes were tense, however the Claverdon defence held strong and sealed a hard fought victory.
The win extended third placed Claverdon’s lead over fourth placed Stoke Old Boys to 11 points and moved the Lions to within four points of second placed Upton, although they have played a game more as the two sides prepare to meet at Upton on Saturday.