Rugby Lions 16 Claverdon 3
Midlands Four West (South)
THEY may have been beaten by the red-hot title favourites, but this performance on Saturday showed how far Claverdon have come in the past 12 months.
Rugby Lions had been averaging little shy of 80 points per home game this league season but, on the back of three successive wins against good opposition, Claverdon travelled to Webb Ellis Road confident of giving the hosts a stern test and so it proved as every player rose to the challenge.
Claverdon started brightly, with large spells of pressure and territory. In fact, it could be argued Claverdon had the better of the first 15 minutes, scrapping at every breakdown, tackling hard and running with intensity.
The back row of Ross Pollard, Charlie Byrd and Tristan Hird were tireless in defence and made a nuisance of themselves all game and the first opportunity fell to Claverdon, with James Williams chipping down the touchline for Paul Daws to chase before an unlucky bounce took the ball out of his reach when on another day it would have popped straight into his arms to score.
However, the pressure finally paid when Doz Ward had the easiest of penalty opportunities to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
A fightback was expected and boy did it come as Rugby roared into action and a rare missed tackle in the midfield allowed their centre to break through and pass to the supporting player who scored in the corner, albeit under great pressure from the covering defence of Tim Westmacott – a real example of the heart that all the Claverdon players showed all afternoon. The conversion was missed and the score was 5-3.
Ferocious defence from one to 15 prevented any further first half scores for Rugby, as they spent the remainder of the period camped in the Claverdon 22. The visiting forwards, although struggling in the scrum, were dogged in defence, throwing their bodies on the line to prevent Rugby extending their lead.
The second half saw Claverdon penalised regularly for offside, playing into the hands of Rugby whose place kicker showed great accuracy in clearing the ball long into touch.
Twice Rugby were successful with shots at goal to extend their lead to 11-3 although, on another day, playing on the fine line of a rush defence may have worked in the away side’s favour.
As frustration grew, Rugby had more ball and momentum, stringing together a number of phases, only to be thwarted by excellent Claverdon defence.
However, the knockout punch was delivered on the hour mark when ten-plus phases of possession stretched the Claverdon defence from left to right and back again and, after nearly scoring in the right corner but for another incredible tackle, Rugby scored relatively unopposed in the opposite corner.
The conversion struck the upright and the score was 16-3, which is how it remained.
Claverdon did not give up hope and credit to the squad for their commitment in both defence and attack but again the Rugby defence held firm, as they have done all season at home.
The last five minutes saw Claverdon pressing again, but they were unable to find the try which could have secured a losing bonus point.
Claverdon, now third in the league heading into Saturday’s visit of Stoke Old Boys, will look forward to the return fixture on March 21 when they will again bid to upset the odds.