Alcester 19 Aston Old Edwardians 0
Midlands Junior Vase round two
ALCESTER made a welcome return to winning ways and in the process progressed to the third round of the national vase competition for only the second time in more than 20 attempts with an excellent victory based on a gritty and determined team performance at a wet and windy Kings Coughton on Saturday.
The Aston side were making a rare visit to Kings Coughton having dropped a couple of levels in recent times, which now qualifies them for this lower level RFU competition.
The Birmingham men arrived with a similar league record to Alcester’s so far this season, with both sides now operating at Midlands Division Four level, albeit in different regional sections of the league.
The Kings Coughton men were once again forced into several changes due to injuries and unavailability, which led to a number being asked to play out of their regular positions to provide cover.
The previous week’s man of the match, 17-year-old Lewis Walker, who has played most of his junior rugby as well as his senior rugby to date in the back row, was asked to fill in at centre and he responded with a two-try match-winning performance.
Another back rower Phil Birks stood in for a first ever start at scrum half and he gave a man of the match performance, at times acting as a second number eight at breakdown time in the greasy conditions, particularly in the first half when the visitors were in the ascendancy.
With the wind and slope at their back in the first half, the bigger visiting pack took the game to their hosts from the start and camped in Alcester’s twenty-two for much of the opening exchanges.
They were aggressive offensively, but any thought this would intimidate their opponents was quickly quashed by the home side who responded in kind with a defensive performance very similar to their effort against table-topping Manor Park the previous weekend.
The whole team missed very few tackles throughout, but locks Louis Smith and Matt Johnson in particular were central to the rearguard effort in the opening quarter of the game.
The conditions led to a scrappy contest at times, with numerous knock-ons and infringements and the visitors elected not to kick two, in range, first quarter penalties and were left to rue that decision when Alcester scored with their first real foray upfield.
Right wing Matt Ashby made good ground with a powerful run, before the ball was quickly recycled by the home side, allowing skipper Jack Green to crash over for the only score of the half.
In the second half the physical nature in close quarters continued but, now with the elements at their back and with a half back pairing that are no strangers to playing in the forwards and therefore to the more physical side of the game, Alcester began to get on top.
After a missed chance by his side, Walker extended Alcester’s lead with his first try which Ashby converted.
In the final quarter of the game Walker scored his second try and killed the game off as a contest with his side’s third try following the most free-flowing back line move of the game, which saw each man draw his opponent in and send the ball on to leave the Alcester youngster free to use his pace and race in. Ashby again converted.
Alcester made changes throughout the second half, most notably giving Elliott Evans and Kyran Flynn their competitive 1st XV debuts, as well as introducing veteran lock Andy Spiers for his welcome return to action after a long injury and illness enforced lay-off.
In what was a full-blooded contest throughout, the visitors were forced to play most of the closing stages a man down after their left winger was yellow-carded for a no-arms tackle.
Alcester managed to close the game out with their opponents scoreless in what was one of the most impressive performances in recent years at Kings Coughton.
They are hoping to take this form into Saturday’s big Midlands Four West (South) derby at Redditch.