Alcester 16 Claverdon 18
Warwickshire Vase quarter-final
ALCESTER’S first competitive outing of the season ended in a frustratingly narrow defeat against the Lions at Kings Coughton on Saturday.
It was an extremely scrappy affair as both sides lacked any real cohesion to their play throughout.
The visitors started down the slope and with a stiff breeze at their backs and they were ahead inside the opening 15 minutes when their scrum half Conor Smith, who made the most of the conditions throughout the first half, put a clever little kick in near the home try line into the path of skipper James Williams who pounced on the ball to score.
The visitors remained in the ascendancy and, having missed one penalty opportunity at goal, were successful moments later through younger brother Tommy Williams to make it 8-0.
As the half wore on and with their pack on top of the scrum, the home side forced some attacking opportunities of their own and were awarded a penalty after half an hour, which skipper Jack Green converted well from 35 metres out.
Green was presented with an almost identical opportunity moments later which again he accepted to bring his side back within two points.
The defining feature of the first half remained Claverdon’s good use of the conditions when putting boot to ball, keeping play in Alcester territory for much of the opening 40 minutes.
In the closing stages of the half another error by the home side gifted possession to the visitors and once again they finished smartly following another cross-field kick into the path of George Redwood who scored to make it 13-6.
Alcester made changes at the break to give all of their replacements early season game time and this did little to change the pattern of a scrappy game, although they did enjoy the early territorial advantage now playing with the slope and breeze at their backs.
As the final quarter of the game approached, the home side had spurned a couple of clear try-scoring opportunities, when poor passes or ill-advised offloads failed to find their intended target which led to the visitors being able to break away upfield, with their back line having more cohesion to their play than the Alcester unit.
From another home attack inside Claverdon territory, an attempted chip over an advancing defender on Alcester’s right went completely wrong and resulted in James Williams catching the ball with a free run into space to make it 18-6.
To Alcester’s credit they did not let their heads drop and in the final 15 minutes they played their best rugby of the match, which was still a little short on quality at times, but the guts and determination they showed could not be faulted.
Replacement prop Kyran Flynn barrelled his way over from a short range ruck after the home backs had taken play deep into the visitors’ territory and moments later captain Jack Green crossed for his side’s second try following smart play from his fellow centre Jamie Clarke.
Alcester laid siege to the Claverdon line in the closing stages, but could not find another way through and in the end had to settle for a narrow defeat.
Seventeen-year-old fly half Josh O’Connor won Alcester’s man of the match accolade, as he continues to grow in senior rugby.
Up against a much more experienced opposite number, and in the end the player on the field that was the difference between the two sides, he battled on and was the heart of Alcester’s attacking threat in the second half in particular.
The two sides meet again at Kings Coughton on October 1 in a Midlands Four West (South) game.
Alcester have to wait until September 17 for their league campaign to start when they travel to Bromyard, but are due to visit Old Yardleians in a friendly this Saturday.