Claverdon 51 Redditch 15
Midlands Four West (South)
CLAVERDON racked up a half-century of points as they stormed to victory in Saturday’s season opener at Ossetts Hole Lane.
Following an abject pre-season, there were plenty of nerves heading into this fixture against a tough opponent.
However, despite unavailability and injury biting hard and signs of a 50th season hangover, the free-flowing rugby and a good blowout against Copsewood in the Warwickshire Vase previously should have blown away any cobwebs.
Saturday started woefully for the Lions, with Ross Pollard and Seru Rokotuiloma pulling out in the morning. Unfortunately, although fortunately for the 1st XV, the 2nd XV game had been cancelled, freeing up a number of players who all performed well on the step up.
The game did not start much better. Redditch, with their huge pack and power up front, charged into a 10-0 lead as two scrums led to two scores and things looked ominous for the Lions. Both conversions were missed just wide of the uprights.
Claverdon got off the mark with a penalty in front of the posts and the score was soon levelled following pressure to the Redditch line.
With an overlap out wide, flanker Anthony Jay found himself in the unusual position of fly half and he offloaded to prop Matt Warren occupying the 12 channel, who in turn fed number 8 Luke Allsopp at 13!
The ball ended in the speedy Jack Johnson’s arms and he went over untouched under the posts and the simple conversion was added by James Williams.
Something had lit the blue touch paper and Claverdon rolled through the gears. The resilient defence from the previous season returned and they attacked with real intent.
The pressure allowed Claverdon to take the lead with another straightforward penalty before quick thinking from captain Williams took his personal tally into double figures with a tap penalty 5m from the line and he dived over for the score!
The failed conversion attempt was met by the half time whistle and 18 unanswered points was a real credit to the spirit and fightback showed by the Lions.
The second half, however, started in a similar fashion to the first as Redditch came out the aggressors and enjoyed large spells of possession and territory.
An imaginative box kick inside the ‘red zone’ from Redditch’s scrum half dropped kindly into the winger’s arms to dot down in the corner, although the touchline conversion attempt rattled the crossbar and bounced away.
The large Redditch pack then started to surrender their advantage as fitness started to show. The Claverdon pack, although much smaller, were able to get around the park and make more of an impression at scrum and lineout.
At 18-15 the game was finely balanced, but the Lions’ pre-season training seemingly proved the difference over the last 20 minutes.
Johnson finished with aplomb for his second score, darting over following extended Claverdon pressure, and Williams added the extra two.
The bonus point was shortly in the bag as Johnson grabbed his hat-trick on debut for the club. Michael Jay broke blind from the back of the maul and, having sold the full back, unselfishly switched the ball to Johnson to cross between the posts and Williams extended the lead with the conversion.
Some fine forward play saw a penalty try awarded for the fifth Claverdon try. The referee adjudged the Redditch player to have effectively prevented the try by lying all over the ball 30cm from the line and the conversion was duly added from in front of the posts.
Marc Spencer scored the sixth and possibly best try of the game. Williams – tidying up following a grubber kick through – decided on running the ball back with 29 players in front of him and he beat a couple of tired Redditch forwards and fed Michael Jay who offloaded to David Parkes.
The latter was desperate for his debut score and, perhaps a little greedily, fell inches short before popping to Spencer to touch down. The conversion attempt slid just wide of the left post.
Finally there was a large stroke of fortune for the hosts as Williams, ignoring the coach’s decision to take three points, miscued a penalty kick for touch into the dead ball area.
The captain did claim the resulting dropout and took on the Redditch defence once more. An attempted pass to Parkes was batted away by the retreating defender, however man of the match Johnson raced through to touch down the bouncing ball for his fourth score and Williams added the conversion to take his tally to 21.
The Lions visit Stoke Old Boys on Saturday.