REDDITCH 2nds fielded a mix of experienced forwards and tyro backs as they began their Merit League programme with a trip to Clee Hill 2nds and, although the effort was there every minute of the game, the visitors’ luck ran out with the end in sight, writes Brian Carr.
The 18-3 defeat featured the familiar problem of not having the right skill sets in the right positions. Having a prop at scrum-half was not ideal, however Craig Dixon’s performance at nine belied the fact he had never been on the outside of a scrum before!
Distribution of the ball was not as snappy as it might have been, meaning Will Baillon at fly-half was rushed into actions and unable to feed the centres as much as everyone would have liked.
The whole game was a frantic affair with little cohesion from either side, which made it as entertaining to watch as it was frustrating to play in.
Balls spilled in contact, last-ditch tackles, ill-judged kicks and the occasional confrontations kept everyone interested for its duration.
Baillon opened the scoring for Redditch with a penalty kick earned after some enterprising runs from himself, TK on the wing, the Allen brothers in the pack and Mike Essex in the back row.
Cal Rassak, an unfamiliar full-back, provided safe hands, solid tackling and an attacking option when the ball got to him and Elliott Blakemore and Jack Shelton in the centre were more than a match for their opposition, stifling attacks and preventing any momentum.
Up front, the forwards more than held their own against a pack who were vastly more experienced but who struggled with the pace of the game.
The second half brought a few changes, not just in personnel when Dixon had to step down from scrum-half, but when Clee Hill started to calm the pace down and rather than spin the ball wide where they had been getting no success they concentrated on steady forward-dominated drives, giving themselves a little more room and time out wide when it was needed.
However, the hosts’ scores actually came from fortunate events rather than any skill, as a kick chase ended up with a 5m scrum for Clee Hill despite a blatant knock-on, a gap was found and a try was scored.
Shortly afterwards, another scramble with the ball resulted in a sharp exchange of opinions, giving Clee Hill the opportunity to kick for another three points – a chance they were fortunate to get. The kick was converted, as was a second soon afterwards.
At 13-3 in the closing minutes, Redditch threw caution to the wind, only for their attacks to be thwarted. The ball was hacked back downfield and another obvious shove off the ball was missed so, instead of Redditch getting a penalty, Clee Hill scored a second try to give them a flattering margin of victory.
The whole of the Redditch pack should be praised for their relentless work. Dixon is obviously a scrum-half fighting to get out of a prop’s body, Baillon ran, kicked and passed the ball continually in an unfamiliar fly-half role, but man of the match went to TK on the wing for fine tackling, dangerous runs and attentive support.
This Saturday the seconds and firsts are due to be at home, with the firsts hosting Greyhound as their Midlands Five West (South) campaign resumes.