Redditch 12 Church Stretton 12 (Redditch win on penalty shoot-out)
North Midlands Vase Plate final
THE KINGFISHERS finished their season in style by taking home the North Midlands Vase Plate after a nail-biting finish on Sunday.
The teams could not be separated at the final whistle at Dudley Kingswinford, leading to the rare occurrence of a penalty shoot-out from the twenty-two metre line.
After a gallant display, the young scrum half from Church Stretton pulled his kick wide of the posts, leading to Josh Holt stepping up and showing nerves of steel to win the game.
Redditch started the game with furious intensity as Lewis Saddington made a clean break and offloaded to Simon Fitzpatrick who was held up between the posts.
Shortly afterwards Oliver Stokes thought he had broken the deadlock on the right wing after Holt had glided through the defence, but the latter’s pass was adjudged to be forward.
Eventually the pressure told and man of the match Jack Duffy picked up from the back of a scrum and crashed his way over the line.
Church Stretton showed why they have won the league below Redditch this season and upped their game to punish Redditch before half time. Their pacy back line and full back in particular pounced on a mistake and showed good skill to score a try down the left wing.
They continued to move the ball away from the Redditch pack and again found space and this time it was down the opposite wing as the full back finished off well the overlap they had created.
Redditch began the second half strongly and at times had to force the game to try and penetrate a resilient Stretton defence. The strong Redditch pack were finding a lot of joy with their rolling maul that has proved so successful this season, but were often out of striking range to make the try line.
Halfway through the second period Redditch got good field position and applied plenty of pressure. After a string of penalties Redditch got their reward as Duffy broke the line and offloaded to the support runner and next season’s Captain Gareth Davies to level the score.
The last 20 minutes were tough as fatigue set in with line breaks from players on both teams, but often isolated runners had possession stolen at the breakdown.
Unfortunately for Redditch, the influential Duffy was injured in the latter stages and had to be sent to hospital and subsequently missed the celebrations.
The final whistle blew with the expectation of extra time and another 20 minutes of play. However, due to the scheduling of the following fixture on the same pitch, the game was automatically taken to the penalty shoot-out.
Captain Mark Green and coach James Shotbolt gathered their troops on the halfway line to watch what could have been five penalty attempts on goal from both teams.
The tension was unbearable as the Church Stretton scrum half snatched his kick, but Holt held his nerve in the windy conditions to prompt wild celebrations.