The Ivor Preece Field, Rugby Road home to Broadstreet Rugby Football Club, was the setting for a must win game for two clubs at the wrong end of the table and; as might be expected, play throughout reflected the importance of victory in this confrontational and, at times, feisty contest which ended in a comfortable five tries to nil, maximum points win, for the hosts. But that was not before visitors Luctonians RFC, from near Leominster in Herefordshire, had gutsily clung on until the second half with some spirited defence and no little attacking endeavour, writes Bob Harcourt
Whilst ‘Street, positioned 12th to Luctonians 13th in the league, looked good in the first half for the win; the Luctonians’ defence and the home side’s unforced errors saw them go into the half time break only 12 – 6 up. However, having faced the gale in the first period; that great South African sage, Ezza Woolley, correctly and thankfully predicted at the break that; “’Street will run away with this second half”. That left Mrs Freemantle, muttering, “Not if they keep losing the ball”!
And it was the case that, in the first half, ‘Street spurned several scoring chances through over-eagerness; and no doubt, the bitterly cold, head-on wind, also contributing to a plethora of dropped balls and knock-ons in good positions.
‘Street started the game the stronger but it was Luctonians’ Geraint Langdon who put the visitors ahead after two minutes; they having weathered ‘Street’s opening salvo and, after gaining penalty relief into home territory, an off-side offence gave him an easy three points, 0 – 3. Langdon repeated the dose four minutes later on his side’s next visit to ‘Street’s half, as another off-side infringement saw him increase the lead to 0 - 6 and only six minutes played.
‘Street, thereafter, went on the offensive again, but, too many errors and that over-eagerness almost spoiled a chance to score after some great carries by the forwards; with Jake Dodd, Matthew Solomon and Danny Wright to the fore, taking play to a metre out. A Luctonians’ player ‘killed’ play and ‘Street opted for the penalty lineout. The maul came up short and Lucs stole the ball in the ensuing pick and go phase, to initially cancel the threat. However, from a Lucs’ five metre scrum, ‘Street pushed their opposition off the ball, allowing number eight Jack Gibbons to crash over. The trusty boot of Ben Palmer added the extras and ‘Street took a lead after eleven minutes, which they were never to relinquish, 7 – 6. Error strewn play continued until more forward power play from ‘Street produced a penalty lineout in the left corner; from which hooker Stewart Pearl grounded the ball at the bottom of the driving maul. Wide out and windy, Palmer’s conversion sailed off target so, 12 – 6 and 24 minutes gone.
‘Street gave themselves a, last minutes of the half, chance to increase their lead after good phase play took them to the shadow of the Lucs’ posts where lock Aaron Crofts was tackled inches short but lost possession. Luctonian’s resulting scrummage was turned over, as ‘Street increasingly took command at scrum time, but the ball was flung wide too soon and the defence was able to snuff out the threat. Patience! Patience!
Half Time: Broadstreet 12 Luctonians 6.
Broadstreet restarted the second half and earned a lineout in Lucs’ 22 metre area, which was lost, and as Lucs were now against the blustery gale, they sought to phase play their way out of defence but were penalised for holding on in a tackle; [Jamie Harrop take a bow in the turnover stakes]! Ben Palmer kicked the penalty goal, 15 – 6 with two minutes on the clock. A further long range chance five minutes later just fell wide and after a period of ‘Street pressure in opposition territory they looked likely to produce a third try. However, Luctonians’ lock John Kelly was deemed to have deliberately knocked on near his line and was sin - binned. ‘Street opted for a kick to the corner with Lucs a forward short. After a drive and following ruck play earned a scrummage five metres out, a bizarre chapter of happenings ensued! Time and again ‘Street disintegrated Luctonians’ scrum resistance, but each time the decision was mystifyingly to re-set the scrum or award a penalty eventually tempting ‘Street, questionably; but no doubt from frustration, to run the ball wide left, only to then knock on. Nevertheless, Lucs were again pushed off the resulting scrummage ball and Jack Gibbons bagged his second, from the number eight position. Palmer landed the conversion, 22 – 6 with sixty minutes played.
From the re-start ‘Street gathered but decided to try and run the ball out of their half instead of using the considerable wind advantage; eventually conceding possession. Fortunately, a penalty against Lucs cancelled the pressure, as Palmer boomed a kick to near the opposition 22 metre line. A turnover by blockbuster centre James Otutaha saw him pop a pass to scrum half Nick Thatcher; hitting a gap at pace, but, with the line at his mercy the ball failed to stick and Lucs cleared to thirty metres out from the resulting scrum.
‘Street lost their lineout and Lucs attempted to run the ball out of defence only to lose possession. There followed another series of scrums, a repeat of the previous scrum saga, where penalty to ‘Street followed scrum; after penalty after scrum!!!, which only resulted in Luctonian’s replacement player, Ashley Horner, being strangely yellow carded for collapsing the scrum to prevent a try! Despite ‘Street’s pack being now able to push their opposition over the line, there was still no penalty try awarded and, ‘sod’s law’, Lucs cleared, when ‘Street realised they were never going to be rewarded for their dominance and passed the ball out only to knock on; concede a penalty from which the visitors gratefully cleared to half way.
From the penalty lineout, Lucs ran the ball and their second replacement player, Brett Prior, was yellow carded for stamping at a ruck. ‘Street took the penalty lineout 22 metres out and from following phase play Nick Thatcher raced over for an unconverted try, 27 – 6.
At the re-start, Matthew Solomon was lifted to catch the kick and was up-ended in the air by Luc’s Aiden Cheshire who, after a referee/touch judge conference, was red carded for a perceived dangerous tackle with four minutes left on the clock. ‘Street managed one more score before the final whistle when Aaron Crofts finished off some close in play wide out left. Palmer was off-target with a difficult kick.
Final Score: Broadstreet 2 Luctonians 6.
Squad: Andrew Murray; Jefferey Gregson, Nathan Tilsley, James Otutaha, Josh Palmer; Ben Palmer, Nick Thatcher; Joe Foreman, Stewart Pearl, Jake Dodd; Aaron Crofts, Matthew Solomon; Danny Wright, Jamie Harrop, Jack Gibbons (Capt). Henry Sandys, Gareth Turner, Chris Wood, Dan Martin, Ben Cooper.
Thought for The Game:
‘Street’s determination to play open rugby at times in such blustery conditions was pleasing to witness; but there are times, perhaps not that often though, when a long kick to touch, especially with a gale at your back, can save energy and put you in the right area to then open up. Overall, the driving forward play was right for the conditions, effecting a good, workmanlike showing, performed under testing conditions and with a must win obligation; Well-done lads - job done; for now!