Rugby Welsh 25 Redditch 6
Midlands Five West (South)
REDDITCH are almost certainly left fighting for the second promotion place after leaders Rugby Welsh secured a bonus point win which leaves them 14 points clear of the second-placed Kingfishers with just five matches remaining.
A victory for the visitors in Saturday’s clash would have thrown the title race wide open, but instead Redditch are seemingly left to fight off the attentions of third-placed Chaddesley Corbett who are two points behind the Kingfishers with a game in hand. The pair meet at Bromsgrove Road on the final day of the season.
The task begins for Redditch with Saturday’s (2.30pm) visit of Stourport.
If Redditch are to escape this league, they will face opposition like Rugby Welsh on a regular basis and they will need to improve if they are to survive.
Although the Redditch pack was dominant in the loose and set-pieces, they were unable to create any meaningful threats against a home side who seemed able to make ground at will.
Kicking with the wind in the first half, Redditch were unable to use it as effectively as they would have hoped. Ash Mooney slotted over a 40m penalty kick using the breeze nicely but before they could settle down to build on it a simple interception allowed the Welsh centre to run 60m virtually unopposed to score. The conversion was charged down by Will Baillon.
Keeping the ball in hand more, the Rugby side slowly ground their way up the pitch to again secure a scrummage near the Redditch line. With possession won, the ball was neatly spun along the back line to an eagerly awaiting winger to score their second try, although the conversion was missed.
Redditch had their moments but seemed blunted in their ambitions as the usual charges by Matt Allen, Jack Bacciocchi and Mike Essex which regularly provide the platform for attacks were stopped short by the defensive pattern Rugby Welsh implemented.
The home side’s back line was bigger man for man than Redditch and it showed as Welsh seemed to be able to make more yardage than Redditch and in turn were able to stifle the visitors’ attacks before they bore fruit.
However, there was always a glint of hope and the Redditch pack made valuable ground when driving in unison and a string of penalties conceded by the hosts kept Redditch in the game as Mooney doubled the visitors’ score with a twice-taken penalty kick to make it 10-6 at the break.
If Redditch could hang on for a while in the second half, use possession wisely and gain confidence, then they were still in with a shout, however things turned against them very quickly when a deep kick was not dealt with particularly well and the ball was turned over and Rugby scored under the posts.
It was a body-blow for the Kingfishers, but heads did not go down. James Mills kept nudging has pack forward, man of the match Stuart Brooks took up the baton and made ground whenever possible and slowly Redditch took control of the ball, but were unable to escape from their own half.
At times it was hard to tell just why certain penalties had been awarded, to either side, but a blatant late charge on Will Heath gave Redditch a chance to clear their half.
However, the gale had other ideas and kept the ball in play and it was fed down the line to a second row who was eager to impress, which he did by running in untouched from halfway.
Other potential tries were saved by last-ditch tackles, notably by Baillon and Mills in opposing corners. Redditch could have been overrun but their determination to keep the score looking respectable was commendable.
A late penalty kick rounded off the scoring and Rugby Welsh had the bonus point win which, except for a miracle, will mean they will probably be promoted.
The second promotion place looks likely to be between Redditch and Chaddesley Corbett, alhough Atherstone and Five Ways OE will still have their say too. If Redditch do make it to the final hurdle and step up a division, they will need to tighten up their defence and sharpen their attacks.
Report and picture: Brian Carr.