Evesham 15 Claverdon 3
Midlands Four West (South)
THE LIONS saw their four-match winning start to the league campaign ended by a strong Evesham side on Saturday, but they returned to Warwickshire with their heads held high, writes Charlie Byrd.
Early on some strong running from Tom Johnson almost saw the Lions run clear and score in the corner, but a good tackle from the Evesham winger prevented this from happening.
A similar situation happened moments later after the Evesham fly half yet again cleared their lines with the boot and it gave Lions winger Nick Marsh the opportunity to stretch his legs.
His options were limited so he went with the chip over the top which was close to being perfect for a try in the corner, but resulted in a defensive lineout five metres out.
Evesham won the lineout and cleared their lines and for one of the very few times in the game the Evesham fly half failed to make decent ground with the boot.
Steve Grimsley hit the back of the lineout with ease, the driving maul was set up and the Claverdon forwards ripped their opposite numbers to pieces, making several metres with the try line in sight, but desperate defence from Evesham saw them somehow manage to prevent the try.
Claverdon were finally rewarded for their persistence in attack when, after multiple phases from the forwards, wing Seru Rokituiloma’s pass was purposely knocked-on by the Evesham centre, resulting in a yellow card and a penalty.
Stand-in fly half Harry Cox, who so far had been having a great day with with the boot out of hand, proved his worth by sending the ball through the middle of the posts from wide and from distance to put his side ahead.
However, this lead was not held for long. After Evesham kicked the ball deep into Lions’ territory, the visitors failed to clear their lines, which resulted in an Evesham penalty for holding on.
Evesham kicked to the corner, winning their lineout and setting up what can only be described as a very well executed driving maul to score in the corner and lead 5-3.
The second half was a similar story to the first, with both sides were attacking with intent but also defending with purpose, allowing very few line breaks.
The Claverdon forwards were having their game of the season in the loose with outstanding rucking from all parties, allowing scrum half Conor Smith to have one of the simpler games he will ever have in a nine shirt.
The Lions defence was well organised and fearless and as a result Evesham were forced to concede a penalty inside their own half. Cox stepped up to take the kick but a horrible stroke of luck saw the ball blown off the kicking tee a split second before the ball was struck, resulting in a scuffed kick and meaning Evesham were able to clear their lines once again.
With 15 minutes remaining, the Lions had a scrum on their own 22. The Evesham scrum had been pushing the Lions back on numerous occasions but Ross Pollard and Smith had been working together beautifully all day to turn it into attack, however this was not to be the case in this instance.
Pollard picked the ball up at the back of the scrum but pressure from Evesham’s back row saw the number 8 get isolated and, after conceding the penalty, Evesham tapped quickly, and for the only time in the game Claverdon were caught napping and the Evesham scrum half scored close to the posts. The conversion made it 12-3.
A few minutes later Evesham breached Claverdon’s back line and were on the rampage but a desperate yet awesome covering tackle from Rokituiloma slowed play down, allowing the Lions’ defence to reform ten metres out from their own line.
The huge Evesham second row took a crash ball at pace and decided to take on Lions flankers Charlie Byrd and Anthony Jay in what can only be described as an massive error in judgement on his part as, in a David versus Goliath moment, the flankers chopped the beast to the ground like a pair of lumberjacks felling a tree and were literally fighting with each other over who got to steal the ball which forced the penalty.
However, a comeback was not to be as Claverdon conceded a penalty with two minutes left inside their own half, which was kicked with ease, to seal victory for the hosts, who leapfrogged Claverdon into third place, with the Lions a point and place below with a game in hand.
Special mention goes to Harvey Skinner, whose work in the loose in attack and defence was simply outstanding and saw him named man of the match.
Claverdon look forward to their next game in front of a large VPs crowd at home to Five Ways Old Edwardians on Saturday.