Birmingham Civil Service 17 Claverdon 29
Midlands Four West (South)
CLAVERDON cemented fifth spot and moved to within seven of second-placed Coventrians with nine matches to play thanks to a bonus point victory on Saturday.
The Lions made the short trip to Solihull on a wet and windy day and, following some early-morning drop-outs, captain James Barton was forced to make some last-minute changes.
James Kirby found himself in his old position out on the wing, whilst Jordan Simpson and James Bush made their first starts in their preferred positions.
After losing the toss, Claverdon played down the slight slope but with the wind behind them. They knew they would need to pile on the pressure in the first 40 minutes if they were going to hold the Civil Service attack sufficiently at bay in the second 40.
Claverdon started as well as they could have. After keeping CS pinned in their own 22 from the kick-off, the CS fly-half was forced to kick into the wind, giving possession to Clav just outside the 22.
Steve Grimsley found Ben Webster who then set for a driving maul and, after making some headway, Mikey Jay sent the ball wide to Simpson and a hard line from Matthew Dunster saw the centre crash over the line in under five minutes for a try which was converted.
With the wind blowing a gale, the restart fell short of the 10m line and it was a scrum in midfield to Claverdon. With a dominant scrum, Barton fed Tom Johnson on a hard line.
A quick switch saw Simpson feed Sam Turrell on the opposite side of the scrum who beat his opposite man and then stepped the covering tackle, before handing off the full-back to score a great individual try under the posts. Converting his own try, the Lions now led 14-0.
Halfway through the first half, CS looked to their bench for some experience. This showed when their scrum held solid, allowing them to attack from centre field. Following several penalties from the Lions, CS were soon deep in the Clav half and a quick tap penalty saw the CS flanker crash over to reduce the arrears to 14-5.
Words behind the posts from Barton were that 20 points with the slope was a minimum and, with not long left, Claverdon were soon on the charge once again.
A solid scrum just inside the CS half gave the backs a good platform to work off and, working the ball wide, James Kirby found himself barrelling over in the corner for his first try of the game and a 21-5 half-time lead.
Clav knew they now had to work that little bit harder against the wide and up slight slope and continued strong scrummaging from Colin Marklew and Tom Hudson allowed the back line to have good attacking ball.
Good yards from Joe Turrell put Clav on the front foot once again but good forward defence form CS snuffed out the attack, allowing them to clear their lines.
An onslaught of pressure came from CS as they played well with the wind against their backs. The results favoured the home side who went over twice to bring the score to 24-17 with just five minutes left.
Claverdon knew they needed to regain possession from the restart if they were to have any chance of reaching the bonus point and a deep kick followed by a good chase from Luke Ford forced the knock-on from CS.
Jay found himself gathering the ball and, with a basketball pass, fed Barton who was stopped a metre short. Carries from Chris Glover and Nick Green took Claverdon over the line, only to be held up.
From a scrum 5m out, the ball was once again shipped through the back and Kirby found himself in the corner, only to be deemed held up. However, one final scrum saw a ball fed from the back to Johnson on a short line.
A quick switch of play allowed Barton to send Kirby over the line unopposed for the flanker-turned-winger to score his second try and seal a five-point win.
The Lions travel to Old Yardleians on Saturday following a postponement before Christmas.