Warwickian 5 Claverdon 23
Midlands Four West (South)
THE LIONS claimed the Gary Hampson Trophy and local bragging rights with victory in Saturday’s derby, writes James Williams.
The 50th season could not have started with a more mouth-watering clash as, competing for the Gary Hampson Trophy – to honour the former player of both clubs – meant this was always likely to be a feisty encounter.
The game started at a high intensity with plenty of players eager to make an impression. The Lions’ Chris Lowe, Charlie Byrd and Ross Pollard all made good ground with the ball in hand, while James Barton and Conor Smith had a few opportunities on the outside of the Warwickian defence.
The first half was a classic case of first game enthusiasm though, as too often the visitors found themselves panicking with ball in hand and took the wrong decision on a number of occasions.
The majority of the half was played in the middle of the pitch, while neither side enjoyed large spells of possession and the game became very scrappy.
The first points came courtesy of the boot of Doz Ward, slotting a penalty from inside the Warwickian 22. This was shortly followed by a second penalty and Claverdon were starting to get into a bit of a rhythm with the forwards carrying well again.
Late in the first half, fly half James Williams carried the ball to the gain line and was taken high around the neck, with the Warwickian player being shown the yellow card. The penalty was nudged towards the Warwickian 22, where a strong catch and drive was stopped short of the line.
A couple of phases later following some quick recycling, the ball was popped to Lowe who burst through a couple of tackles and stretched out an arm to score. Ward missed the conversion, firing against the right upright.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first. Neither side retained possession for long periods and neither side exerted significant territorial presence.
The first score came courtesy of a catch and drive from 5m, with Steve Grimsley surfacing with the ball. Ward added the extras to extend the lead to 18-0.
The score seemed to spark life into Warwickian, who upped their tempo, which started a series of penalty decisions in their favour. A penalty at the scrum, followed by a march back of 10m and a second scrum, allowed a Warwickian player to squirm over and register their only points, with the conversion drifting wide.
Claverdon went roaring back down the other end and, after a short spell in the Warwickian 22, looked certain to score. The forwards again took the ball to the line and recycled quickly, allowing Michael Jay to spin the ball wide and create an overlap for Tom Johnson to touch down in the corner. Ward failed to add the two points.
Persistent infringement meant Seru Rokotuiloma was sent to the sin-bin after failing to roll away from the tackle and Claverdon were further reduced to 13 men after Nick Green was sent to the bin following a scuffle.
However, the boys dug deep and, chasing the bonus point, were unlucky to have a score ruled out for an alleged double movement when Williams touched down in the corner.
The Lions Claverdon named Lowe and Byrd as men of the match for their hard work both in attack and defence.
With hints of promise and things to work on, the Lions are relishing a tasty encounter at home to Atherstone in their second league game on Saturday.
Joint man of the match Charlie Byrd on the run. All pictures by Will Barnes. (s)
Scott Conduit tries to make a break for Claverdon. (s)