Regional Two Midland West

Newent RFC 35 Shipston on Stour 27

DESPITE winning 11 games without defeat in the first half of the season, the one thing we have learned, is that there are no easy matches in this league.

And this match was to prove no exception, writes Frank Bowe.

The weather was better than should be expected in January, as Newent kicked off towards the changing room end, a little gloom quickly descended for the home team however.

Shipston cleared the ball with a kick back into the Newent half, the catch was spilled and collected by the chasing visitors after a couple of slick passes strong running winger Matt Daniels scored in the corner. There was barely a minute on the clock.

Characteristically for this match, which featured some very good flowing rugby interspersed by unforced errors, Newent’s next attack broke down with a dropped pass. All was not lost however as the home pack took the scrum against the head.

No dropped passes this time as the ball was moved out to Dan Fletcher playing on the left wing, who crashed over in “Cauldron Corner”.

The handling problems returned however and, as a result, Newent soon found themselves defending their line, as the attack created an overlap, it was relatively straightforward for right wing Harry Clark to touch down close to the corner flag.

Once again Newent took the initiative and the pressure they created resulted in a penalty in front of the posts, 30 metres out. The decision was made to go for goal and Tom Webb’s kick was as accurate as you are likely to see. The deficit was reduced to 8-10.

Play reverted to the town end where Shipston were awardedca penalty about 25 metres out but the kick, surprisingly, was unsuccessful.

The home team once again mounted an attack. Newent’s dominant pack took clean ball and moved the ball right, fly half Tom Webb took a risky decision to chip the ball into the corner. This choice of attack turned up trumps as Dan Fletcher took a diving catch and touched down in the corner in the same movement.

With 20 minutes on the clock, we had seen tries scored in each corner of the field none of which were converted from the touch lines. It could be expected that all four wingers had scored but Newent’s captain spoiled the symmetry by scoring on both flanks.

Newent were now in the ascendency but struggling to get over the whitewash. A little indiscipline following a ruck led to a yellow card for Shipston No.8 Toby Wheeler, a standout player throughout the game.

From the penalty, Tom Webb added another three points to his team’s tally. After 40 minutes of entertaining rugby, the score was 16-15.

Five minutes into the second half, it was as though someone had ignited Newents afterburners. The sizeable crowd witnessed 15 minutes of some of the best rugby the team has produced all season.

Movement of the ball was clinical, passes were going to hand, scores looked inevitable.

The first try came from a beautifully-timed delayed pass to fullback Jacob Ivel on his first start of the season.

Jacob had no hesitation as he went through a gap at great speed crossing the line without a hand being laid on him. Webb was accurate with the conversion.

The next highlight featured two more home team speedsters. Will Tanner chose a great line to receive a pass, at full tilt, from Webb, having broken one tackle he almost broke a second and would have had a clear run to the line. Fortunately, as he stumbled in the tackle, Tanner offloaded to the supporting Phill Middlemiss who was traveling at a similar pace and covered the final 15 metres to score a well-deserved try.

It was one way traffic now with Newent firmly in control. Webb made a probing kick downfield, which looked as though it may go dead, it stopped just over the try line however and caused some confusion in the defence. An attempted clearance kick was charged down, flanker Leo Oakey was on hand and was happy to touch down for the next home team try.

It looked as though Newent were home and dry. It may have been complacency, a lack of gas to keep the afterburners going or just sheer determination from the Shipston team but the tide turned once more.

Another Newent dropped ball gifted Shipston an opportunity which they accepted gratefully, after a few well-timed passes the visitors scored in the corner.

Newent couldn’t get out of their own half and the opposition’s tails were up. After a number of penalties against them Will Tanner was yellow carded and Shipston made their numerical advantage count as they crashed over for a short range try.

It was difficult to see who scored the try but, in the bar later, Robbie Faulkner claimed it and was adamant that he ran 30 metres. With the score at 35–27, both teams had everything to play for.

It wasn’t easy by any means but Newent managed to hold their defensive shape and repel Shipston until the final whistle.

This Saturday afternoon (February 3), Newent visit Malvern, while Ross RFC are due to host Bredon Star