Stoke Old Boys 10 Claverdon 25
Midlands Four West (South)
FOR the first time in three seasons, Claverdon travelled to Stoke Old Boys with a relatively full-strength squad and they emerged triumphant on Saturday.
Being up on numbers was a nice feeling for the coach and captain, who had been forced into dragging chairman Ian Wyllie from the hosts’ VPs lunch the year previous and had travelled with 14 the year before that.
Regardless of the fact the Lions looked strong on paper, it would still take a good performance to beat a Stoke side who are notoriously difficult opposition, and the visitors were up to the task.
The game started with both sides trying to gain the upper hand. Both sets of forwards attempted to exert their superiority over one another and the backs largely cancelled each other out.
SOB were strong up front and are known for their set piece and in particular their scrum. Claverdon, however, picked off a couple of their opponents’ lineouts, largely leaving the contest very even.
The first 20 minutes saw very few chances for either side. There were no kickable penalties and no clean breaks as both defences held strong.
Claverdon did, however, get the first score of the game when David Parkes crossed for his first score for the Lions. Good work at the breakdown – the first time the SOB back row could not slow the ball down – allowed the Lions to generate quick ball and work the overlap for Parkes to stroll in untouched. James Williams added the extras.
The second try came shortly afterwards as ill-discipline and lack of concentration from SOB allowed James Barton to take a quick tap penalty on the 22 and avert any danger and dive over to extend the lead to 12. Williams converted from a similar position.
SOB hit back hard and were nearly immediately repaid but fortunately for Claverdon they were able to prevent the try being scored and would admit their relief at only conceding a penalty in front of the posts as the hosts made it 14-3 at half time.
Claverdon knew SOB would be fired up for the second half and they certainly came out with a bang. Their forwards carried hard in the short channel and they attacked with both pace and power out wide.
Their pressure told and they were awarded a penalty to the right of the posts. The kick, however, was struck wide of the upright to the relief of the Lions players.
Claverdon hit back immediately and were unlucky not to score their third try, however they were awarded a penalty which Williams knocked over to extend the league back to two scores.
To their credit SOB hit back as the strength of their forwards proved too much when a lineout from 5m out was heading towards the line, only to be illegally dragged down. The referee headed between the posts for a penalty try which was easily converted.
The next score was crucial as SOB had their tails up and ran hard at the Claverdon defence. However, one to 15 all manned up and knocked back their opposition, restricting SOB to hitting up the middle, which played into the Lions’ hands.
At the other end Mike Jay with a hint of genius set up the third try. A neat left-footed chip over the defence allowed Williams to run on to the ball and dive over, although he could not convert the chance as he missed to the right.
Williams then almost certainly secured the win with a penalty from in front of the posts with little over 15 minutes remaining to put Claverdon 25-10 up.
Claverdon, in search of a fourth score and bonus point, threw the ball around in a bid to break the SOB defence which had held strong throughout.
Parkes flung a loose ball to Williams who broke through the dog-legged defence and if only he had heard Smith on his inside he would have strolled over. Unfortunately for the Lions, he threw a speculative pass wide to Marsh which proved too high for him to catch and the chance went begging.
The relief at the final whistle was immense and it was nice to come away from Stoke with a win – the first in three seasons.
Claverdon will bid to secure a third straight league win on Saturday when they host Upton, who have also won their opening two fixtures.