Redditch 29 Birmingham Civil Service 33
Midlands Four West (South)
IF REDDITCH had a hill to climb to escape the drop before this match, they ended it with a mountain to conquer after a heartbreaking last-second interception try sentenced them to a defeat which had the visitors jumping for joy and the hosts left in stunned silence.
The result saw Civil Service leapfrog the Kingfishers out of the bottom two and leaves them two points above Redditch with two matches to play.
Redditch will most likely have to win both games to stand a chance of survival as the Birmingham side finish the campaign at rock-bottom and already relegated Tenbury. First up this Saturday, Civil Service visit champions Stoke Old Boys.
Redditch still have hope though, with Saturday’s match at mid-table Burbage and a final day home clash against another mid-table side – Claverdon – at least representing realistic hopes of two wins. Redditch did beat Burbage on home soil and both the Leicestershire side and Claverdon have both been beaten by Civil Service in 2018.
The visitors were first to strike on Saturday when a searching kick was swiftly followed up, picked up and deposited over the try-line for a 5-0 lead.
If there had been any doubt about the seriousness of the task in hand, then Redditch now knew their guests meant business. The response was built gradually, as waves of drives within the visitors’ red zone were rewarded with penalties, each gaining valuable ground.
When a penalty was given central to the posts, most were expecting a kick at goal, but skipper James Mills chose the tap option and was rewarded when John Wormington wriggled his way to the line for a try converted by Sam Gladwin.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the game was the pinpoint kicking from hand by Lewis Saddington. One such example had Ash Mooney following up and he combined well with Micky Adams who got to within 5m of the try-line.
From the ensuing ruck Will Baillon chose a direct line to score a try that was soon followed by a Gladwin penalty kick and Redditch were 15-5 to the good and looking steady.
They had used the breeze to their advantage and, although not all decisions had gone their way, they seemed to be in a comfortable position. The much larger BCS pack appeared to be finding the pace of the game a struggle but were holding their own in the tight scrums.
The visitors, however, opened the second half the more aggressive side, keeping Redditch pinned in their own half for long spells without reward.
It was the boot of Saddington which again brought the crowd to its feet. A space where the full back should have been was exploited with a searching kick and Mark Green was first on the scene but the bounced frustrated him. However, Baillon was able to hack the loose ball through and dive on it, converted by Gladwin, to give Redditch a 22-5 lead.
It had got to the stage now when BCS had to throw caution to the wind and, instead of folding, they seemed to be regenerated by going so far behind. Redditch, in contrast, may have thought the job was done – a three-score lead with 20 minutes left would normally be a comfortable place to be – but BCS had other ideas.
Two tries came in rapid succession – the first from a series of bulldozing drives that tried to punch holes in the solid Redditch defensive wall until one such hole appeared to earn seven points and the second a simple overlap when defenders were pulled out of position to provide another seven points and make it 22-19.
Redditch shook themselves back into life and ploughed forward. Their attacks were blunted but a clearance kick was picked up by the eager Baillon who linked with Green who in turn fed Steve Wilman who scored, again converted by Gladwin, to restore a ten-point lead.
At this point some serious game management would have been useful – a ten-point lead heading into the last ten minutes was a scenario that should have been defended with some ease – especially when the stakes were so high.
However, somehow the hosts found themselves desperately defending their lines and could do nothing to prevent the next try when a perfect angle was cut between the posts and the gap was down to three points with a few minutes to play.
BCS could smell blood, but Redditch just needed to keep the ball safe, play in the opposition half and keep the clock ticking down. Somehow, though, in what turned out to be the last play of the game BCS managed to intercept the ball on the halfway line and the scorer ran in unhindered to finish Redditch off and leave them staring relegation in the face despite two bonus points.