Redditch 10 Stoke Old Boys 26
Midlands Four West (South)
IF LEADERS Stoke Old Boys thought they were in for an easy ride against a Redditch side without a league win to their name, they were in for a shock as the Kingfishers pushed them all the way on Saturday.
Redditch put together one of their most fluent and coherent performances of the season so far and, with a little more luck, may have come away from this encounter with more than just complimentary plaudits.
The home pack held their own in all aspects of the game, which allowed the backs to shine in both attack and defence. Slick hands, elusive breaks and solid tackling held the visitors at bay.
Barry Forester-Smith and Jamie Holloway in the centres played their familiar game – punching holes in the opposition – and Lewis Saddington distributed from fly half with enough assortment to keep SOB guessing, whilst wingers Stu George and Sam Gladwin had opportunities to show their speed and Steve Wilman at full back showed security and bravery, often diving at the feet of oncoming traffic.
Yet, despite all this enterprise, it was the visitors who scored first when a speculative kick was taken into touch and, with SOB taking the lineout swiftly, they scored a converted try against the run of play.
Shortly afterwards Gladwin had a penalty kick attempt hit the upright but from an ensuing scrum Saddington fed Holloway who in turn made room for Forester-Smith to charge to the line for a well deserved try converted by Gladwin.
The visitors got frustrated as they were not expecting this sort of fight and, to add to their woes, the referee did not like a lot of what he saw them doing in the rucks and tackle situation.
As a consequence their frustration spilled over a couple of times and they were marched back ten extra metres on a regular basis. The Coventry side kicked a lot of ball away as a result of being unable to break down the solid home defence.
However, Craig Martin had to leave the pitch with a split eyebrow and his absence unbalanced the previously steady Redditch lineout, which SOB took advantage of when a sniping run from a loose ball allowed them to regain the lead.
Redditch replied straight away and a series of attacks were rewarded with a series of penalties yet, despite regular warnings, the referee kept his cards in his pocket.
Eventually Gladwin struck a penalty for three points. Redditch had deserved more but half time arrived with the score at 12-10 to the visitors – a scoreline nobody had realistically expected.
The second half brought pretty much the same, although less kicking meant SOB ran more of their possession and slowly but surely they started to dominate, but still could not increase their lead until a particularly clean crisp move unleashed their outside centre who scored a converted try.
The Redditch heads could have dropped but if anything their efforts were redoubled. The back row of Matt Allen, Nathan Marthews and John Wormington were everywhere, tackling anything in sight and constantly frustrating their guests, but any hopes of a comeback were thwarted when a simple interception resulted in seven points to stretch the visitors’ lead – a try-scoring bonus point that was hardly deserved.
SOB continued to be frustrated in the loose by the hardworking Redditch forwards but it took until the 75th minute before the referee remembered which pocket his cards were in.
If Redditch can maintain this sort of performance then they will comfortably survive the season and scare a lot of opposition. Matt Allen was named their man of the match, but another 14 men would have been pushing hard for the award as a fine all-round display from all quarters failed to earn the rewards it deserved.
Redditch return to league action at Tenbury on November 25.