Harbury 34 Redditch 21
Midlands Four West (South)
THIS may have been a sixth successive league defeat for Redditch, but there were further signs the work being done by coach Simon Fitzpatrick is beginning to take effect.
Saturday’s defeat in south Warwickshire leaves the Kingfishers with just one point from their six matches, although they are off the bottom following the 17-point deduction handed to Bromyard who now find themselves on minus four.
It was an evil afternoon to play rugby, especially if you were a winger and it took some running around to prevent their hands from turning as blue as the Redditch shirts as the driving rain and near-zero temperature looked as if it would stifle any creative play.
However, it turned out to a cracking game as both sides took credit for open, attacking and entertaining rugby.
As the opening stanzas played out with both sides testing out their opposition with direct forward play and tactical kicking, it was Harbury who broke the deadlock.
A Redditch knock-on conceded a scrum in the hosts’ half and their dynamic inside centre got an opportunity to run and he did so in style from his own half with disappointingly few Redditch hands able to touch him as he scored between the posts.
Duly converted, Harbury were straight back at Redditch from the kick-off and the defence was unable to deal with a clearance kick and turned over possession as a second try was scored and the confidence Redditch had felt moments earlier was suddenly deflated.
The game calmed down for a while as Redditch found their balance and continued to test the home defence with Jack Duffy, Will Baillon and Nathan Marthews again to the fore, with skipper on the day Matt Allen supporting as ever.
However, despite their effective play in centre-field, the Kingfishers rarely got close to the red zone to worry Harbury too much. In fact, it was Harbury who scored the game’s third try when a concerted attack on the left wing forced an overlap for the winger to slip over the line and give a 17-0 lead to the hosts which was neither a fair reflection on territory or possession, but points on the board is what counts and Redditch had none despite their much-improved discipline and structure.
Heads could really have gone down at this point but conversely Redditch scored more points than their opponents in the remainder of the game, beginning with Steve Wilman slotting over a penalty kick to get them off the mark.
However, capitalising on another weather-related error, Harbury were able to score their fourth try to extend the lead which might have finished off many sides, but this Redditch team just keep on hammering on the door knowing sooner or later it will break down.
Break down it did, when the blue pack started to take the upper hand. Coaxed forward by scrum-half Kit Hemming, it was Fitzpatrick – who had only just entered the fray replacing injured Jack Bacciocchi – who was able to finish a punishing drive for Redditch’s first touchdown to make it 22-8 at the break.
The climate improved in the second half and a frantic game calmed down as both sides played entertaining rugby without necessarily getting their just rewards. Duffy was forced off with a dead leg, Miguel Cassama continued to unsettle Harbury plans with a fine display of tackling but ultimately Redditch could not capitalise on the home side being a body short for 20 minutes due to two yellow cards in quick succession.
Wilman slotted over a couple of penalty kicks to put Redditch back in contention but, when the Kingfishers found themselves down to 14, Harbury struck back with two late tries to put the outcome beyond doubt.
However, Redditch saved their best until last as Baillon ran the ball out from between his own posts, making over 60m on the attack before it was snuffed out and the ball was hoofed back to the Redditch line.
Harvey Habgood dealt with the danger, scrum-half Hemming fed Marthews who started a laboured but direct run and on halfway he found support from Allen who outpaced everyone uphill to score a try converted by Wilman on the final whistle.
Redditch will bid to bag their first win of the league campaign when they host mid-table local rivals Kings Norton on Saturday.