Claverdon 31 Coventrians 10
Midlands Four West (South)
CLAVERDON maintained their faint promotion hopes with an entertaining victory over their lowly visitors on Saturday.
The Lions started with the sun in their eyes and playing uphill. James Williams kicked-off the game deep into the Coventrians half and the visitors started by sending their forwards up the tight channels, but good early defending from Chris Glover and Colin Marklew kept them pinned back, forcing the Coventrians fly-half to kick clear.
Tom Johnson, judging the wind well, took the ball on and ran it back with interest. Soon back in the Coventrians 22, the forwards rumbled the ball up closer to the line and, with pressure building, Claverdon were soon awarded a penalty and were on the board at 3-0.
Coventrians only took minutes to level the scoring after kicking the ball deep into the Claverdon half and gaining a penalty in front of the posts.
Claverdon soon took control of the rest of the first half by playing front-foot rugby and strong running from Luke Rogers and new centre partnership Sam Turrell and Jonny Grey linking up well in midfield allowed Claverdon to gain good territory.
With all the pressure piling on, Claverdon were awarded a penalty out wide. Captain James Barton gave Williams the orders to put it in the corner and, with the lineout functioning well, Harvey Skinner gathered at the top from Steve Grimsley.
With the maul brought down, the forwards knew they now had to work for their try but a strong carry from Tom Hudson left a hole for Rogers to take the next carry over the line for 10-3.
Coventrians upped their game with strong carries in the middle of the park and their former centre now second row showed his power by sending his opposite man Skinner on to his back and rolling backwards, much to the crowd’s excitement!
With this on Skinner’s mind, he found himself taking ten minutes’ rest after taking the man beyond the horizontal at the next breakdown.
Claverdon now really had to play sensible rugby as they knew what they faced, down to 14 men and with a tight scoreline.
Starting the second half with a deep restart to James Kirby, the number six ran the ball back with anger in his eyes. Bouncing off a couple of defenders and offloading to Barton, Claverdon were on the front foot.
With clean ball for Jack Johnson, the ball was shipped wide to Harry Nathan who used his pace and quick feet to put Claverdon up to the Coventrians 22. Substitute Nick Green carried hard through the middle with support from Grimsley and put the hosts in the 22.
New centre Alex Holden was next to crash up in the centre of the park and after several picks from the ruck it was Barton who wriggled his way through three defenders to go over for Claverdon’s second try and 17-3.
Claverdon knew it was now time to pounce. The lineout was functioning well and the scrums were solid. From a scrum wide out, clean ball from Johnson to Williams allowed Williams to put a well-weighted grubber in behind the defence for Turrell to run on to and score unopposed between the posts for 24-3.
Coventrians again sent the ball deep with the restart and found replacement James Riley. Showing his speed and power, Riley cut back infield and set up Matt Warren and Josh Smallwood to put Claverdon on the front foot.
Accurate hands from the back line allowed James Gibney to go over for Claverdon’s bonus point after electric pace and a good hand-off for 31-3.
The pressure was slowly getting to the Coventrians pack and a late shoulder charge on Johnson followed by a retaliation from Green resulted in the pair being sin-binned.
Coventrians piled on the pressure and this showed with Holden having to take ten minutes following a number of pressurised penalties in the Claverdon 22. With Claverdon now down to 13 men, Coventrians opted for the scrum and, with one extra man and lots of field space, they got their try just wide of the posts for 31-10.
With only two minutes left it was Coventrians who really upped the tempo. Good ball retention, strong carries and several penalties allowed them to work their way back into the Claverdon 22 and the hosts were soon down to 12 men as Kirby joined the others for a rest after seeing red and entering a ruck from the side.
With a penalty five metres out, Coventrians took the tap. The Coventrians captain took it on his own and, running hard, was met by his opposite captain Barton who shut the door on him. Setting up from this, Coventrians went blind, only for the winger to by denied by Riley with a big tackle into touch.
Man of the match was Jack Johnson. The scrum half took several huge hits from the Coventrians forwards but still distributed the ball well and called the shots to keep the forward in check.
The Lions return to action at Herefordshire side Greyhound on March 23.
Words by James Barton.