Redditch 26 Stourport 19
Midlands Five West (South)
REDDITCH returned to winning ways on Saturday with a vital bonus point success which puts the pressure on main rivals Chaddesley Corbett in the race for promotion.
After defeat to leaders Rugby Welsh, the second-placed Kingfishers knew a response was needed and they provided one to move seven points clear of Chaddesley, albeit having played two games more.
The visitors were grateful to see dry land as their own pitches are currently under three feet of water, being on the River Severn floodplain. In fact, Redditch hosted the only game to be played in their league and the inevitable backlog in fixtures could well have a bearing on when the final places will be decided.
Playing into the gale of Storm Jorge in the first half, Redditch were content to soak up the pressure, hold their shape in defence and break away when possible.
Rather than try and kick aimlessly into the wind, the majority of exits came from good old-fashioned carries led from the front by skipper Matt Allen, ably assisted by all his pack who organised their pods nicely to push the visitors steadily backwards.
The tactic worked well and, although handling was not perfect in the slippery conditions, Redditch were able to blunt the attacks Stourport threw together and had the occasional foray themselves.
Stuart Brooks and Allen linked well from a cheeky 22 drop-out but a dropped ball let them down, but Stourport were unable to get to grips with the strength of the wind and too often kicked possession away, making Redditch’s job easier.
However, as often happens, the well-planned moves come to nothing yet the spontaneous events bear fruit. A ruck 30m out from their own line did not seem to be of particular danger to Redditch, until the visitors’ second row picked up and virtually strolled unopposed to the try-line.
Quite how he gained possession remains a mystery, but the try was converted to give Stourport a 7-0 half-time lead.
Roles were reversed after the break as Redditch had the wind at their backs and spent a lot more time in the opponents’ half driving forward.
Dan Oscroft, Micky Essex and Mike Allen carried the ball hard into the heart of the Stourport defence and Josh Kearney and Jack Mertens in the centres joined in the fun too.
Pressure was rewarded with an attacking scrum and, in a bid to counteract the wind, fly-half Will Spires attempted a low grubber kick for the backs to run on to, but luck was against him and his kick through ricocheted into the hands of a Stourport back who had the pace to run 60m and under the posts for a converted try which made it 14-0.
It was around this time the luck changed ends and fortunes radically altered. From an offensive ruck, Jack Bacciocchi spilled a pass but it went unnoticed and there followed a spell of confusion as the ball ping-ponged through various hands, only to end up back with Bacciocchi who dived over in the corner for the hosts’ first try.
Virtually from the kick-off, Spires chose the running option instead of the boot to make ground and his keenly-timed pass allowed debutant full-back Cameron Wood to showcase his skills as he weaved between attempted tackles to score under the posts.
The momentum was now with Redditch who kept driving and mostly kept the ball in hand as, not only was the wind playing havoc with kicks for both sides, but the lineouts themselves were a farce.
Stourport were reeling and the waves of pressure had them struggling to keep Redditch at bay. The visitors losing their scrum-half to a yellow card for tackling his opposite man without the ball did not help their cause.
From the ensuing penalty move, Bacciocchi barged over for his second try and not long after that from a dominant scrum the ever-active Essex barrelled over under the posts. These three tries were all converted by Spires.
In a short spell Redditch had turned things around to lead 26-14 and, although Stourport did score a late try, they rarely worried the Kingfishers.
On paper at least, Redditch appeared to be missing some first choice names but on the pitch this was not evident as the back three of Wood, with Jon Beale and Leon Fanthome on the wings, were solid under the kicks which came their way and more than able to restrain their opposite men and make life dangerous in attack.
Most of the game was forward-dominated and any one of them would have been a worthy man of the match, but the accolade went to Wood who was solid and confident.
The first team now have a couple of weeks away from league action as the rest of the teams try and catch up with postponed matches. The Kingfishers return to league duty on March 21 at Atherstone, who are not out of the promotion picture.
On March 14, Redditch are hosting a charity day featuring a couple of games, attractions for children and raffle with big prizes. Details are available on the club’s Facebook page.