Redditch 24 Five Ways Old Edwardians 5
Midlands Five West (South)
REDDITCH continued their climb up the table as Saturday’s vital victory over fellow high-flyers Five Ways OEs propelled them into second place and kept leaders Rugby Welsh in the Kingfishers’ sights.
Redditch now head into Saturday’s rearranged game at lowly Bishops Castle & Onny Valley with the chance to move as many as eight points clear of both Atherstone and Five Ways OEs.
However, the forthcoming fixture could prove tricky, as Bishops Castle have conceded the least points with the exception of the leaders and have gained five losing bonus points, so they are no pushovers.
Regardless, Redditch will go into the match full of confidence having seen off Five Ways in a hard-fought game which began with the forwards testing each other out both legally and otherwise.
Penalties were exchanged by both sides as they tested out the referee and themselves and the game of tactical chess played itself out.
It was the visitors who had the first significant play of the match when their outside centre was released in space and his impressive speed took him past the floundering tacklers for an unconverted try.
The skies were grey with a touch of drizzle and a strong breeze at Five Ways’ backs, but they were unable to take advantage of. At one point they defied the elements when a sliced kick went backwards into the headwind and Josh Kearney was first to react, gathering the stray ball and having broken through two tackles he was felled by the third just inches from the line.
From the ensuing restart, Redditch turned the ball over, moved it impressively left and right to spread the defence until skipper Matt Allen saw his chance and sped through the yawning gap. In-form Will Spires added the extra two points.
There were not many highlights in the first half, although Redditch’s Chris Upton at lock had a storming run through the middle, scattering tacklers in his wake.
Tom Saddington probed and tested with runs and kicks and the scrum held its own solidly, although with the breeze picking up the lineouts were a lottery.
Redditch were frustrated by some decisions which spoiled their fluency but they coped well with all that was thrown at them and because of Five Ways’ inability to take any advantage from the wind the half closed with Redditch holding on to a 7-5 lead.
In the second half it all clicked for Redditch as moves from the training ground paid off and the attacking phases built up a belief it was just a matter of time before the points came.
Capitalising on the breeze, Saddington put Redditch in an attacking position, the ensuing scrum was won, James Mills threw off his shadow for long enough to feed the ball back to Saddington who at pace was able to break though to score, although a rare miss from Spires left the score at 12-5.
The introduction of Will Baillon added a new impetus to the game as his dynamic straight running was testing the Five Ways tackling and resolve to the limit.
However, unlike the previous week he was not rewarded with a score, but his link-up with Rob Burns provided Burns with the third try and another conversion for Spires.
Everyone played their part as the home pack dominated and Five Ways were harassed continually, unable to settle and unable to unleash their dangerous No 13.
Mistakes were forced, Redditch controlled the game and, having learned from previous games when they had taken their foot off the pedal, they stuck at it for the full 80 minutes and were rewarded with their bonus point try when No 8 Stu Brooks rounded off another textbook move.
Mike Allen, restored to the second row, was named man of the match after his constant driving forward surrounded by his fellow forwards was key to the overall success.
Redditch 2nds lost a game against Claverdon 2nds in the slippy mud on a neighbouring pitch. Although they went down 32-0, the subtle mix of old heads and young legs performed reasonably against the more experienced visitors.
Thanks go to Luke Kerins for getting the team together, Loran Abbott who led them on the field and James Shotbolt who stepped in to referee the game.
Redditch Queenfishers are back in training and the successful touch rugby side will start their season properly on March 8.
A new captain is required as former skipper Olivia Jones has stepped down to concentrate on her England career. She has already been selected for the initial England training squad but will continue to play for Redditch as often as possible.
The girls train on Monday and Wednesday evenings and more details are available from the club’s websites and Facebook pages.