Claverdon 12 Coventry Welsh 18
Midlands Four West (South)
PROMOTION-CHASING Coventry Welsh hung on to deny Claverdon victory in an exciting penultimate home game of the season in front of a large Ladies VPs crowd on Saturday.
With the first team pitch finally playable again after a painfully wet and snowy winter, the Lions were buzzing to be back on their pitch in front of a good crowd.
Faced by a very large pack, Claverdon’s front row of Jack Yates, Steve Grimsley and Alex Bleby had an outstanding day up front.
However, the hosts once again got off to a poor start as they conceded a try in the first couple of minutes – an issue which has blighted the Lions’ campaign.
Claverdon bounced back quickly with a penalty kick for three points following a spell of pressure, but they dropped off the pace and conceded another try not long afterwards which gave Welsh a decent 12-3 lead.
The rest of the first half was mainly Claverdon, with the majority of territory and possession favouring the home side. There was no problem with the way Claverdon were playing – their defence was fearless and the set piece was generally faultless – but the problem was finding that final pass to give themselves that crucial break to score which Welsh had found twice in the half.
Although the tries were not coming, Claverdon did force Welsh into conceding a lot of penalties and the points kept on flowing through the boot of James Williams. He did miss one at the stroke of half time which would have put the hosts within three points, but that did not put Claverdon off their stride.
At half-time, the message was clear. With the more dynamic forwards that Claverdon possessed, they needed to wear down the far bigger and less mobile pack of Coventry Welsh by running them all over the park.
The game plan generally worked and Welsh never looked like scoring tries for the rest of the game, with Claverdon far superior for the second half, but like the first period they never looked like finishing off the moves.
They came close on a couple of occasions, including when Tom Johnson made a break on the left and kicked the ball over for James Barton to touch the ball down for the ‘try’, but it was deemed to be dead by the referee and was therefore disallowed.
The forwards were working their pick and goes well, making massive ground and pulling up just short due to Welsh’s old heads using their experience to slow the ball down and turn the ball over when it mattered.
This proved to be the story of the game with Claverdon pressing hard until the final whistle but falling at the final hurdle. Even at the death, the Lions lost a lineout on the Welsh 5m line.
Special mention goes to Jack Johnson who played the full 80 minutes with an injured knee and Chris Lowe who made his comeback after a few months out with a very effective performance off the bench.
Sixth-placed Claverdon return to action at Harbury on April 7.
Report compiled by Charlie Byrd.