Pershore 26 Claverdon 32
Midlands Four West (South)
IN-FORM Claverdon maintained the pressure on the top two with an impressive win in south Worcestershire on Saturday.
The Lions won the toss and decided to play up the very slight incline in the first half. Pershore put the kick-off high and the chasing pack forced the early handling error from Claverdon to regather the ball.
With ball in hand, Pershore sent their big ball carriers up the centre of the Claverdon half and a few missed tackles allowed Pershore to get on the scoreboard early on with a converted try.
Claverdon restarted, only for the Pershore pack to run the ball back with interest. Scrambling defence from Alex Holden and Matt Dunster eventually helped slow the Pershore tempo down but the hosts forced the visitors into conceding several penalties which culminated in James Williams being sent to sin-bin.
Pershore opted for the scrum from the penalty and piled on more pressure to extend their lead to 14-0 with a second converted try.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Lions got on the front foot and strong yards from Tom Hudson put them in a good position. With Will Lawton calling the orders from scrum-half, Claverdon worked their way into the Pershore 22 and excellent handling and support from Ben Webster, Josh Smallwood and Colin Marklew allowed the final ball to find its way to Luke Rogers who beat several covering defenders to cross the line and make it 14-5.
With half the sin-bin time down, Claverdon continued to apply pressure and more strong running from Hudson and Holden kept Pershore on the back foot. Strong work around the breakdown from Chris Glover saw them on the Pershore 5m line but good defence forced the error from Claverdon and Pershore responded by scoring their third try through their pack to lead 19-5.
However, the Lions rallied and Webster was able to take clean lineout ball and set up a maul, tying in the Pershore players. The ball was then shipped to Williams who danced his way through the scrambled defence to score under the posts and the visitors reached half-time just seven points adrift at 19-12.
Claverdon club captain James Barton, Matt Warren and Steve Grimsley entered the fray for the second half and soon found themselves in the ascendancy with the slope in their favour. Tom Johnson made good progress and eventually Rogers found himself in open space, only for a covering tackle from Joe Gisbourne to put a stop to this.
However, Gisbourne found his head on the wrong side of Rogers and the game was paused with concern across the pitch. Both teams’ physios attended to ensure no further damage was done and an ambulance was called.
With half an hour remaining the match was moved on to another pitch and everyone connected with Claverdon wishes Gisbourne a speedy recovery.
The game restarted with a Claverdon scrum on the Pershore 22 and more good running from Holden and Dunster set a good platform for Rogers to pick up and work his way through the defence for his second try which left the score 19-17 in the hosts’ favour.
After several changes of possession, Claverdon had a scrum just inside the Pershore half. Scrappy ball at the back was picked up by Barton who drew several defenders then offloaded to the supporting Sam Turrell who showed strong evasive running to beat four defenders and go on to score a converted try, making it 24-19 to the visitors.
Claverdon managed to keep hold of the ball for most of the second half. Forcing a penalty in midfield, they kicked for the corner and clean ball was taken by Barton who gave Ali Norman the ball at the back.
Pershore decided to stand off the maul, so Norman peeled off and wriggled his was over the line and extend the advantage to 29-19.
From the restart Williams put a high ball up and out of nowhere James Gibney found himself whacking man and ball in the Pershore half. With bodies flying in, Pershore conceded the penalty in front of the sticks and Barton wanted to keep the board ticking so opted for the three points which duly arrived.
Pershore did have the final say by keeping ball in hand and sending up their big ball carriers and a wide flat pass from the scrum half allowed them to cross the line.
Third-placed Claverdon – five points below second place – host bottom side Redditch on Saturday.
Match report compiled with the help of James Barton.