Stourport 28 Redditch 32
Midlands Five West (South)
IT MAY have been a gloomy, damp and squelchy afternoon but, in line with the town’s rebranding as a holiday destination, Stourport provided a rollercoaster afternoon for those watching this fixture.
The match induced a few cardiac scares as the see-saw game reached a gripping finale, although the start of the game did not give any hints as to what was to follow.
Early possession from Redditch saw them claim the territory and push the home side backwards. A straightforward scrum win sent the ball spinning along the backs, Tom Saddington saw a gap and took it cleanly for a straightforward try, although a kickable conversion was missed.
With their heads up and confidence soaring, Redditch soaked up the fightback from Stourport, regained the ball and steadily made their way back up the pitch.
A cleanly-taken lineout gave the opportunity to use the back line again and this time Harvey Habgood timed his pass finely to give Will Spires a clear run to the line, but another kickable conversion was wasted.
A third try followed soon afterwards when Tom Saddington, making himself active in midfield, picked up a stray ball and sprinted from the halfway to score unopposed, but yet again the conversion opportunity was spurned.
However, Tom Saddington did step up to slot over a penalty kick soon afterwards.
Stourport were by now getting desperate to stem the flow of tries but, the more they tried to move the ball around, the more mistakes they made.
Frustration was setting in and Redditch were getting ready for the kill. Jack Bacciocchi and Matt Allen combined in midfield with storming drives and the ball was fed to Jack Mertens who finished the move under the posts. This time Tom Saddington added the extras to give Redditch a bonus point within half an hour and a 25-0 lead.
It was around this point the hosts woke up, as their handling improved, their invention caused problems and sheer determination earned them points.
A penalty went their way close to the Redditch line. Stourport charged, twice, and were rewarded. Their conversion was not wasted and so a little respectability was brought to their scoreline and a lot of confidence.
At half-time Stourport made a few changes which were to prove crucial. It was almost as if a new team had taken to the pitch for the restart and they certainly had more purpose about them and showed they meant business with a quick try as the newly-introduced centre cut a killer line through the Redditch defence for a seven-point try to make it 25-14.
It was not long before Stourport used their scrum to better effect, used the blind side and scored a third and another touchline conversion made it a four-point game, emphasising the importance of taking your points when they were on offer.
Now the roles were reversed, Stourport had their heads up and were playing much better rugby. Redditch were scratching around for fluency. Injury to scrum-half James Mills meant changes as Will Heath moved in from 10 to 9, Spires from 14 to 10 and Connor Morris came from the second team pitch to hit the game running on the wing.
His first action was to bring down the ball catcher from the restart and the impact and impetus seemed to remind Redditch they still had a job to do and needed to get their acts together quickly.
A series of drives with the whole pack taking part was rewarded when hooker Loran Abbotts saw a gap nobody else did and dived to ground the ball on the line. Tom Saddington slotted the extras over and Redditch settled into a more comfortable lead.
Stourport had other ideas and their pack upped their game a little more. Redditch strayed over the offside line too often and suddenly Redditch were back behind their line watching another conversion sail over the bar having been driven back by a rampant Stourport pack.
The referee had signalled five minutes to go. Redditch had cleared their lines well, their defence was resolute and determined to hold on. Tom Saddington had broken clear but was tackled late after a downfield kick, yet the penalty was awarded from where he kicked it.
Redditch bundled a threatening attack into touch yet Stourport had the put-in. The decisions were not going the visitors’ way and the clock should have gone red by now, but still Stourport piled on the pressure.
Morris again made a crucial tackle, as did man of the match Clarke Parker, yet Stourport upped the intensity, determined to take the spoils.
Attacking scrum after attacking scrum within sight of the Redditch line was thwarted and eventually the ball came free from the set piece. With a last-ditch drive to the try-line, the Stourport attacker was unceremoniously bundled into touch and the game was won.
On Saturday Redditch travel to face Keresley in a rearranged fixture. The Kingfishers know victory will lift them into fourth place and into the thick of the promotion race.