Regional 2 Midlands West
Berkswell & Balsall 3 Newent RFC 19
ON paper, top of the table v bottom looked like an away banker for Newent, but they made heavy weather of securing an eighth win of the season, despite dominating territory and possession for much of the game, reports SIMON BARKER.
The conditions did not help, a surfeit of handling errors from both sides testifying to a greasy ball.
Injuries and unavailability forced a number of changes to the Green Army’s squad for this first fixture between the clubs.
Dave Boon started at tighthead, Jim Hartland at scrum half and Kyle Towers on the wing, whilst the replacements included two players making their 1st XV debuts in hooker TJ Slender and 18-year-old winger Jake Mitchell.
Newent got off to a promising start, with an unconverted try ten minutes in from a 5m scrum, Ben Vincent picking up, breaking down the blind side and stretching over.
Newent then camped in the hosts’ half for a full 25 minutes but despite pressurising their opponents into a succession of penalties, failed to add to the score.
The driving maul made little headway against the strong Bs pack, whilst spreading it wide invariably ended in a dropped pass.
And having lifted the siege, Bs fly half James Fahy then cut the deficit to 5-3 from a penalty.
That was the score at half-time, with Newent facing the prospect of playing up a significant slope in the second half.
But the Green Army started the second half sharper, generating quicker ruck ball, and two penalties from the boot of Tom Webb plus one from Doug Long (who was also just fractionally short with a monster effort from fully 5m inside his own half) stretched the lead to 14-3 as the game went into its final quarter.
A penalty against Newent then gave the Bs position deep in the opposition 22, and the hosts’ set piece put the visitors’ pack on the back foot for the first time this season.
But handling errors at key moments coupled with some strong defence kept the line intact.
The siege was lifted thanks to sterling work from Vincent, who not only secured Newent’s ball at the back of a fast-retreating 5m scrum but carried strongly to the 22 where the Bs were penalised at the ruck.
The visitors then produced their best set of attacking phases, following a break from Doug Long – now at fly half after coach Sam Goatley reshuffled his backs – which took play deep into opposition territory.
And Jordan Devries – on as a back-row replacement for his brother Jack – crossed wide on the right for the try and a final score of 19-3.
Elsewhere, Ross RFC were unable to honour their fixture at Tewkesbury on Saturday and remain second to bottom of Counties 3 Tribute Gloucestershire North.
Newent 1st XV host Hereford this Saturday (November 11), while Ross are scheduled to visit Cheltenham Saracens the same afternoon.