Broadstreet Rugby Football Club battled against high flying Cheshire visitors Caldy RFC - in fourth position - in this nip and tuck nervy home return match and hung on to bag a maximum five point bonus win, despite self-inflicted pressure forcing them to defend valiantly on their own line for the second week running. The “no-side” whistle came as music to the ears of players and supporters alike, as Caldy fell short, like ‘Street did in the away encounter, writes Bob Harcourt.
‘Street’s talented young guns have dug deep these last two games against higher placed, more experienced, opposition and have picked up nine valuable league points, moving them up from twelfth to ninth place and a little nearer to safety. Other results, however, mean that the ‘ample proportioned singing lady’ is still waiting in the wings! With Birmingham & Solihull RFC, Hull RFC and Luctonians RFC pulling off seemingly unlikely victories, the points gap has not changed and ‘Street need to stay focussed, as the relegation battlers strengthen their teams and resolve to avoid the dreaded three-team drop.
Two slow starts at Stourbridge RFC and against Huddersfield RFC were reversed this week as ‘Street started at a gallop and tore into a tweve point lead in the first thirteen minutes; compliments of a lineout drive, grounded by openside Gareth Turner, unconverted by Ben Palmer and, a Penalty Goal following Caldy’s scrummage disintegration on their five metre line. Caldy’s Benjamin Jones pulled three points back at the end of the first quarter 12 – 3, as ‘Street started to kick away possession despite enjoying twenty minutes of pacy, top-draw, ball-in-hand rugby. As mistakes slowed ‘Street’s pace, Caldy grew into the game and forced errors and penalties, giving them attacking platforms from which to threaten home territory. From a ten metre defending scrum, ‘Street knocked on and Caldy made good use of the turnover to slide a grubber kick through the defence, allowing winger Andrew Soutar to win the touch down race for a well-taken five pointer; (Jones’ kick hitting the woodwork) 12 – 8 with five minutes to go to the break. The home side kicked out on the full to concede a half-way scrummage from where Caldy pressured their hosts leading to half time, but, despite a couple of scrums and a penalty lineout in ‘Street’s half, the defence stood firm and there was no further scoring. Half Time: Broadstreet 12 Caldy 8.
The third quarter was a forgettable time for ‘Street, apart from the first few minutes. Palmer re-started the half and Caldy countered after an exchange of kicks, breaking into ‘Street’s half; however, a Caldy obstruction, allowed the home forwards a penalty lineout thirty metres out from the Caldy goal line. The ball was taken up by robust, hardworking lock, Danny Wright; onto centre James Otutaha and then to fly half Ben Palmer who put winger Andy Murray through the tightest of spaces to breach the defence after just two minutes gone. Palmer converted from wide, 19 – 8 and looking healthy!
Being the well-organised, well coached, high-flying outfit they are, Caldy picked up the pace and, despite a Palmer penalty attempt sailing tantalisingly close from forty metres out, it was all Caldy for the next fifteen minutes as ‘Street hooker Stewart Pearl was yellow carded for a maul infringement on the ‘Street line; allowing the Caldy pack another drive and this time, with the hosts down to seven forwards, they completed the drive, compliments of Jack Collister, and reduced arrears by five points, 19 – 13. The re-start ‘went out on the full’ and Caldy attacked from the half-way scrum. Good phase play saw the ball see-saw left and right as Caldy looked for a way through ‘Street’s resolute defence and eventually flanker Neil Dowridge was driven over wide left; Kicker Jones was unable to convert from the touchline, but Caldy were right back in the contest at 19 – 18, with only fifteen minutes of the second half played. Palmer kicked deep with the wind and ‘Street took a lineout 25 metres out and whilst driving the resultant maul they were adjudged to have ‘crossed’ and Caldy relieved the pressure with a kick to near half way. Caldy phase play came to nought as ‘Street patiently defended, forcing their way back to the visitor’s ten metre line. Again ‘Street offended and Caldy broke downfield and were awarded a penalty just inside the home half as the assistant referee adjudged a ‘no-arms tackle’. Fortunately, Caldy coughed up possession at the resultant penalty lineout and ‘Street’s Nick Thatcher kicked deep into Caldy territory. Enter Gareth Turner, work-horse extraordinaire - chasing a seemingly no hope situation he saw a Caldy player take a long, over-ambitious, quick lineout throw to two midfield colleagues. Still chasing, Turner plucked a fumbled pass out of the hands of the pressurised full back, Jones, to dash between the posts for an inspired, individual, 64th minute try. Palmer converted for a 26 – 18 lead.
‘Street weathered the storm after the re-start, but, not for the first, nor the last, lost possession, gifting Caldy another assault on the home line. The ball was held onto for a good three minutes until a mass of bodies collapsed over ‘Street’s line wide out to the right. After a confabulation between the referee and his assistant, it was decided that Caldy had scored through second rower Jack Collister. With no conversion, ‘Street’s lead was, nevertheless, cut to just three points at 26 – 23 and nine minutes remaining.
The re-start was again kicked ‘out on the full’ and Caldy gleefully attacked from the centre spot and proceeded to frighten the life out of home supporters by pressurising deep in their host’s territory. Good defence held the line and eventually gained the required turnover. Through a scrum penalty, ‘Street earned a lineout thirty metres from Caldy’s line and drove, only to be penalised for another ‘crossing’ (obstruction?), allowing the visitors to clear up-field. Again, ‘Street defended aggressively to steal the ball; but coughed up possession; got it back; knocked on and after another great turnover gave an interception pass that allowed Caldy deep onto home soil. A defensive offside saw Caldy kick to the corner and drive. “Here we go, not another Harrogate!” said Mrs Freemantle; “We must be trying to throw the game away”! But thereafter, she was to issue rapturously explicit verbal relief, as Caldy were caught for the much penalised act of ‘crossing’ in the maul; conceding a penalty to allow ‘Street to clear – game over!
Final Score: Broadstreet 26 Caldy 23.
Thought for the Game:
Much opinion was proffered during and after the game regarding ‘Street’s shaky manner of play, but in my book it shows that Caldy were similarly guilty of turnovers and the like; in what was a cold, wet, windy and fiercely contested encounter. In the Caldy leg, in the sunshine, the score line was 14 – 12 to Caldy and we were then far more in control. Since, Caldy have proved to be a competent, well coached and dogged team, sitting in fourth position; whilst we have been fighting to; find our feet in this higher, more competitive, league; get to grips with an overload of away matches and, manage a tactically demanding struggle to rise up from relegation danger. Make no mistake - this was a damned good win against good opposition. Great character lads!
[Just clean up the kicking act please!]
Squad: Ben Cooper; Jefferey Gregson, Nathan Tilsley, James Otutaha, Andy Murray; Ben Palmer Nick Thatcher; Joe Foreman, Stewart Pearl, Henry Sandys; Danny Wright, Matthew Solomon; Chris Wood, Gareth Turner, Jack Gibbons. Jake Dodd, Mike Worthington, Aaron Crofts, Jamie Harrop, Beau Carney.