REDDITCH head into Saturday’s final match of the season at home to Claverdon knowing their Midlands Four West (South) survival fate is not in their own hands following a gutsy but ultimately fruitless effort at Burbage.
Saturday’s 47-14 defeat against their fifth-placed Leicestershire hosts, who are bolstered by a relationship with their level four neighbours Hinckley, leaves the Kingfishers two points behind Birmingham Civil Service and safety and knowing victory against the Lions at Bromsgrove Road this weekend is a must.
If performance levels from their previous match are maintained, then there is every chance Redditch will secure a minimum of four points, but the bigger problem is requiring rock-bottom and already relegated Tenbury to win at home to Civil Service.
On what could at best be described as an ‘old school’ Burbage pitch, the lack of clear white lines caught everyone out from the first minute when a loose ball and fumbled defence allowed Will Baillon to dive on the bouncing ball and a try was awarded.
However, it was then pointed out the ball had already crossed the dead ball line that could hardly be seen. From the ensuing scrum though, Baillon cut a sharp line to score an simple try converted by Sam Gladwin.
That was the high point of Redditch’s afternoon, as one by one the wheels fell off the wagon, resulting in a comprehensive defeat but with pride intact.
Jack Duffy was first to leave the pitch with a torn calf muscle which left him unable to walk. This meant coach Simon Fitzpatrick had to join the fray in an unaccustomed second row position and, although the scrum may have been bolstered, the pack’s mobility had taken a backward step.
Only moments later, fly-half Lewis Saddington produced a crucial tackle on his opposite man but unfortunately came off worst with the clash of heads, meaning he was out of the game and, with no remaining replacements, Redditch were down to 14 for the final hour of the game.
It was no surprise Burbage took advantage of the gaps that were now appearing in the thinning blue line’s defence and, with a combination of forward charges and overlaps, the hosts scored four converted first half tries.
A man down and in the face of overwhelming odds, it would have been easier to lay down and get steamrollered, but Redditch’s plan was try at least to get a try-scoring bonus point and they threw everything into the opening minutes of the second half.
They camped on the home side’s try-line and, unable to pick the lock, they threw the ball out wide where Gladwin fed Phil Harding to score his maiden first team try, converted by Gladwin, to provide a glimmer of hope.
Burbage, however, were not about to lose a game to 14 men but try as they might they found it harder to score themselves. Some excellent passages of play from both sides were making it a most entertaining game, even if the result was never in jeopardy.
Not only did Redditch only concede two second half tries when down to 14, they only conceded one in the last 20 minutes when they went down to 13 after Gladwin had hauled his battered body to the touchline.
When the final whistle went to put them out of their misery, every member of the Redditch side could hold their head high – had they got the strength to do so.
The front row of Jarka, Dickenson and Hope had battled in every scrum and maul, as well as tackling all over the pitch. Fitzpatrick and Adams in the second row drove forward to create platforms, whilst the unfamiliar back row of Allen, Allen and Merritt were totally committed to the cause as they covered every blade of grass.
Skipper Mills constantly drove his team forward, striving for the gaps. Drafted into the fly-half position, Gladwin laid his body on the line and the remaining backs Baillon, Kearney, Wilman and man of the match Harding were constantly in action in attack and defence.
THIS Saturday is President’s Day at Bromsgrove Road and Redditch RFC president Brian Carr said: “We never imagined the match would hold such importance but it should make for a great day out, win or lose.
“Our seconds should also be playing Claverdon at home. Last season by coincidence finished at Claverdon and a cracking 34-34 was enjoyed by all in the sun.
“The weather looks favourable, so we are looking forward to a full house and vital win.”