North East Worcestershire Ravens 24 Birmingham Bulldogs 14
Midlands Rugby League South
SOME clinical finishing and an impressive defensive effort ensured Ravens claimed victory in their opening game of the campaign on Saturday.
The new season was only two minutes old when Brad Sinclair spotted a gap and sprinted through for the first Ravens try, which was ably converted by Dave Wimbury.
The Bulldogs hit back within a few minutes to score a try wide out and this had all the signs of being a high-scoring game as both teams showed exceptional ball skills.
However, the man in the middle had other ideas and was keen to stamp his authority on the game as the next 20 minutes saw a succession of penalties for both sides in what was a stop-start affair.
Neither defence was giving an inch and on two occasions the home rearguard denied Bulldogs what looked like certain tries as Arran Warburton and Dave Swaysland made try-saving tackles to ensure the hosts had a two-point lead heading into half time.
Ravens had to play uphill in the second half but they began the period just as they had the first with a try inside the opening two minutes when Richard Whitehouse chipped over the Bulldogs defence before re-gathering the ball and going over for a try which showed he has lost none of his footballing brain. Wimbury converted successfully.
As in the first half, Bulldogs were able to hit back fairly quickly with a try of their own which came from a rare Ravens error and the converted score left the visitors just two points adrift again.
Swaysland was the next to trouble the scorers as he spotted a gap open on the last tackle of the phase and dived over the whitewash for a try again converted by Wimbury to make it 22-10.
Ravens showed immense defence as they defended three consecutive sets of six tackles on their own line, although they were penalised for being too quick off the mark and were issued with a team warning.
After some sustained Ravens attacks, they were awarded a penalty 40 metres in front of the posts and the call went out from the bench to go for the two as this would mean Bulldogs would be three scores behind with only five minutes left on the clock.
Wimbury again struck the ball cleanly through the posts, but the Bulldogs did not give up and had the final say with a try two minutes from time.
Every player impressed for the Ravens, whose pre-season efforts were fully rewarded.
Ravens will now work hard in training as they prepare for their next league game at Northampton on May 14.
Juniors start training this week on Sunday at 10.30am at Kings Norton RFC, Hopwood Park. If you are interested in getting involved in either playing or supporting visit newravensrl.co.uk for further details.