Alcester 17 Coventry Welsh 17
Midlands Four West (South)
ALCESTER earned a share of the spoils against their visitors from the Holbrooks area of Coventry in a keenly contested game at Kings Coughton on Saturday.
A side already missing some regulars was dealt a double early blow when skipper Jack Green failed a late fitness test and had to pull out of the game in the warm-up, whilst back rower Meka Pieri turned his ankle only a couple of minutes into the game and had to come off.
Their absences were filled superbly by others stepping up, most notably 2nd XV skipper Rup Daffern, whose side were without a game and he replaced Green, both in the outside centre position and as captain for the game.
The match began half an hour late as the afternoon’s referee originally went to Atherstone instead of Alcester and that, coupled with numerous stoppages in the second half in particular, meant the final quarter of the game was played in distinctly murky conditions.
With the slope and slight breeze at their back in the first half, Alcester started well and it was no more than they deserved when they took the lead inside the opening ten minutes.
Jamie Clarke crashed over near the posts after a period of good continuity and a number of phases of recycled possession broke down the visitors’ defence.
This was a first telling contribution by the Alcester flanker in what went on to be a man of the match performance by him. Winger Matt Ashby converted the try.
With the home pack having the upper hand in the opening quarter, the backs were enjoying plenty of possession and inside centre Lee Avery-Sherwood doubled his side’s try tally with a second score.
The visitors posed an attacking threat for the first time in the game midway through the first half and, after their kicker had gone wide with a penalty opportunity, they did reduce the deficit when they exploited a disorganised home defence to run in their opening score wide out left.
Welsh were buoyed by this score and Alcester had to withstand a period of pressure before they were able to clear their lines and take play back into the visitors’ territory.
From a Coventry Welsh scrum inside their own 22, the home pack, brilliantly driven on by the front row trio of Jason Richings, Tom Harris and George Green, turned over possession by winning ball against the head and scrum half Robbie Parker found his fellow half back Sam Smith, who spotted a gap and dived over despite some desperate last-ditch defence.
<b>Half time advantage
Alcester full back Tom Heneghan, making a return to 1st XV action after a gap of several years, failed to add to his side’s score when sending a penalty opportunity wide, which meant Alcester led 17-5 at the break.
Both sides were reduced to 14 men either side of half time when Alcester’s Avery-Sherwood and the Coventry Welsh left wing were yellow-carded following an altercation.
The expected onslaught came from the visitors at the start of the second half, led by their weightier and much more experienced pack, who with the elements at their back began to gain the upper hand.
Alcester’s resolute defence stood firm at first, led by man of the match Clarke and second row forward Matt Johnson, and at times they rode their luck when a couple of penalty decisions on their own line went their way when the referee could quite easily have awarded against them.
The opening exchanges of the half were scrappy with numerous stoppages, but with Welsh still enjoying the upper hand. Eventually the pressure told and the visitors narrowed the gap with their second try after a well worked move created space out wide.
With a comeback now firmly on, Coventry Welsh continued their domination and inside the last 15 minutes their pack caught and drove a lineout from distance to crash over the line for a third try, which their kicker converted to level the score.
The last meeting at Kings Coughton between the two sides finished level two seasons ago, thanks mainly to an extremely well taken long distance and last minute penalty strike by the visitors, and it looked like Alcester were set for late heartache again against opponents who have become somewhat of a bogey side over the years.
Coventry Welsh were awarded a penalty with less than five minutes to go but, in difficult conditions underfoot from the rain of the previous days and in failing light, their kicker somewhat spooned his attempt and Alcester clung on for a draw, anything other of which would have been harsh on the home side who had responded superbly to a below-par showing in their last league outing at Coventrians.
Alcester continue in league action on Saturday when they visit Kings Norton to face a side who only have a solitary win to their name this season, but who have proven they are a very capable side having run unbeaten leaders Upton-on-Severn close on Saturday.