Stoke Old Boys 24 Claverdon 30
Midlands Four West (South)
RESURGENT Claverdon claimed an impressive bonus point victory at third placed Stoke Old Boys in Saturday’s rearranged encounter.
The original match on January 7 had been abandoned in the 57th minute with the Lions 8-7 up after the visitors lost one of their props to a neck injury.
Whilst waiting for the ambulance, the captains and referee decided to abandon the original fixture and try again a week later. Thankfully the injury was not serious and Claverdon can also now reflect on a job well done at the second attempt.
In much better conditions than seven days earlier, Claverdon started brightly and James Barton opened the scoring following a neat training ground link-up with Charlie Byrd.
James Williams added the extras before adding a penalty to extend the lead to 10-0 following ill-discipline from the SOB pack at the breakdown.
It was not long before the heavy artillery of SOB started ramping up the gears, with their big ball carriers making plenty of ground.
Their reward was 17 unanswered points before half time. The first three came courtesy of the boot, before a break down the blindside led to Stoke scoring their first try of the game.
Fly-half David was having a good game from the tee and he knocked over the extras to level the score.
SOB increased their intensity and physicality, but the set piece gave Claverdon some parity.
However, Stoke’s second try was a similar score to the first and the conversion duly nailed.
With half time looming and Claverdon on the ropes, a SOB maul headed towards the line, however a fantastic defensive effort collapsed the maul and was greeted by the half time whistle with the hosts 17-10 up.
The message from the Claverdon coaches at half time was to continue in the same fashion – put into practice the hard work from training and force Stoke to play from deep.
Williams soon narrowed the gap to four with a penalty following more SOB ill-discipline.
However, some confusion from a rather poor kick into the Claverdon 22 led to a scrum five metres out. With the defence drawn in by the carry from the No 8, the ball was neatly spun wide for the home winger to run in untouched and again the SOB fly-half added the extras.
Claverdon’s response was to enjoy their best spell of the game and James Kirby started the recovery with a tidy finish in the corner after a tapped penalty five metres from the line was spun to Barton who was just denied a second score, before Williams fed Kirby to dot down in the corner.
Williams missed the conversion from the touchline and the visitors trailed 24-18.
What followed was just as impressive. Repeated carries from the forwards, implementing the hard work from training, was really pleasing.
With the Stoke defence stretched and unable to recover from the speed of the breakdown, Ali Norman forced his way over but Barton was unable to knock over the conversion.
The scoring was finished when Williams ran in between the posts to give Claverdon the lead for the first time since the 15th minute. Barton added the two points to take the lead beyond a penalty.
With ten minutes remaining Stoke threw everything at the Claverdon defence, but a mistake at the lineout in the last play of the game ensured Claverdon sealed victory.
The Lions, up to seventh, will now relish hosting leaders Alcester on Saturday when the visitors arrive looking to extend a ten-match winning league sequence.