Redditch 30 Stoke Old Boys 33
Midlands Four West (South)
REDDITCH’S four-match unbeaten run was brought to an end by third placed Stoke Old Boys on Saturday, but not before the Kingfishers had given the Coventry side a huge scare.
Stoke Old Boys inflicted a 66-0 defeat on visitors Redditch in late November, but this time around it was far different as the Bromsgrove Road men showed the progress they have made.
The opening exchanges looked ominous as gaps were exploited by the eager SOB back line. Last-ditch tackles from Bryn Williams and Mark Green prevented tries being scored, but eventually the pressure bore fruit and when the visitors got their deserved converted try it looked like it was going to be a long afternoon for the home side.
Wave after wave of attacks were soaked up without Redditch getting much of an opportunity to show their flair, but the tide started to turn when Green intercepted a speculative pass and dashed 70m to the try-line untouched. Sam Gladwin added the extras to level the score.
Parity, however, lasted only a couple of minutes before SOB regained the lead when poor tackling let Redditch down.
The try went unconverted and Gladwin then responded with a penalty kick to leave Redditch trailing just 12-10.
Redditch had closed the gaps in the back line, SOB were not as dominant as they were and the home pack were making great strides in the rucks and mauls, spoiling attacks before they could gain momentum and making their own mark going forward.
However, with Redditch pouring forward and threatening to take a half time lead, the SOB fly half chipped delicately over the encroaching Redditch back line, the bounce was kind, the support was on hand and try inevitable, allowing the visitors to end the half 19-10 up.
Now facing a stiff breeze, Redditch knew they were going to have to use the ball in hand a lot more and not recklessly kick away possession.
Although there was the occasional wayward punt with ball in hand, they began to look the more dangerous of the sides. Fast, accurate hands soon gave Williams the opening to pull a try back.
At fly half, Lewis Saddington began to take control of the game, nudging his pack forward and gaining valuable yards through strong runs and an astute boot.
The pack started to drive more with ball in hand, wearing down the opposition and forcing them into committing penalties. The referee gave plenty of warnings but eventually his patience was tested too much and a SOB wing-forward was given a ten-minute rest.
Taking immediate advantage of the extra man, Will Ballion scored the first of his brace of tries to nudge Redditch into the lead for the first time at 20-19.
SOB would not lie down though, as they soaked up the pressure whilst a man down and hit back with a converted try to regain the lead.
However, following another punishing driving maul, Ballion again eluded tacklers to go over between the posts. Gladwin converted and then slotted over a penalty kick to give Redditch a 30-26 lead with just a few moments remaining.
However, it was still too many moments from the hosts’ perspective and in the dying seconds SOB scored what was to be the winning try.
Redditch can look back at this game and hold their heads high. It was a fine team display featuring solid defence, sharp running and crucial tries from Ballion which earned him the man of the match honour.
Redditch, who picked up two bonus points, visit leaders and local rivals Alcester on Saturday.