HAVING run out of steam in a very winnable fixture at Keresley last time out, Redditch proved they do have the stamina and strength to go the full 80 minutes as they secured an impressive 32-23 home victory over Atherstone on Saturday.
Turning recent form on its head, Redditch started slowly and built to a crescendo for a convincing Midlands Five West (South) win against an Atherstone side who had started the day in second place.
It was the visitors who scored first with a simple penalty kick which was followed up by a converted try when their consistent pressure was rewarded with a score out wide.
Redditch responded well and skipper Matt Allen continued his hot streak of scoring when he played the role of a pinball bouncing from would-be tackler to attempted tackler and reaching out to the try-line.
The conversion was again scorned – a failing Redditch need to to overcome soon before it starts to affect results.
An even encounter was developing, noted for the driving runs from the Redditch forwards, slick hands in the backs and a solid scrum, but too often the driving runs were unsupported and the ball was turned over.
With the hosts’ defensive pattern disrupted, Atherstone took advantage with some productive runs of their own and their rangy second row took advantage of slack tackles to extend the visitors’ lead to 15-5 at the break.
During the interval, team manager Luke Kerins reminded his Redditch charges there was nothing to be gained by going into contact and losing the ball.
The message was to take small steps, recycle possession and build the phases. The hosts embraced the concept properly and were rewarded with five tries of their own.
Atherstone were also guilty of some high tackles which gave Redditch a steady supply of penalty ball to use and Matt Allen scored what appeared to be a legal try, but the whistle had already gone to give Redditch a penalty after Stuart Brooks was dispossessed in the act of scoring in a spell that saw the Kingfishers camped on the visitors’ try-line.
Atherstone had been picked and warned regards high tackles but did not learn their lesson and a high shot on influential centre Tom Saddington resulted in a penalty try and yellow card and inspired the Kingfishers to raise their game a little more.
Atherstone replied with a penalty kick but the bulk of the game was with Redditch. Active winger Connor Morris was given room wide to show his class, but a high tackle again took him down.
Playing the advantage, he got to his feet and made it to the line with a stretch. Soon afterwards Matt Allen cut a fine line from out to in, catching the defenders flatfooted to score a memorable try to give Redditch the lead for the first time.
The visitors were not finished and took advantage of a loose ball to pounce out wide to regain the lead at 23-22 but the final word came from a revitalised Redditch.
Injury to scrum half James Mills meant a reorganisation of the back line as full-back Will Baillon moved to fly-half. In an attempt to catch Atherstone off guard, he went for a chip and chase which paid dividends and from the ensuing ruck Jack Mertens pounced to score.
Game management has been a problem of late for Redditch but the closing stages were handled very well as astute kicks kept the visitors pegged back out of danger and in the dying seconds Baillon scored their sixth try to seal a deserved victory.
Making his first start for the first team, Chris Upton looked as if he had been playing there regularly and was rewarded with the man of the match accolade. Micky Essex had a great game in the unfamiliar hooker role and Jack Bacciocchi had another storming performance.
On Saturday fifth-placed Redditch – five points off the summit – travel to deepest Shropshire to face Bishops Castle & Onny Valley for a winnable game but due to injuries the visitors could be short in key positions.
Redditch 2nds 17 Aldridge 2nds 23
ON A PITCH which was only just playable, Redditch hosted a strong Aldridge team who were deserved winners but everyone enjoyed a good romp in the mud.
Daffyd Jones scored for the hosts from close quarters in a first half up the hill, but Aldridge had already scored a couple of tries and were on top.
Multiple changes all-round did little to help the fluency of the game but second half tries from Carl Platten and a sinuous weaving run from Harvey Habgood made it a close contest.