Redditch 27 Keresley 0
Midlands Five West (South)
THE STEADY gale from the clubhouse end of the pitch threatened to blow the Kingfishers off course against a Keresley side who narrowly beat them earlier in the season, but the hosts stood up to the challenge and secured a vital bonus point victory to aid their promotion chase.
The five points extended second-placed Redditch’s lead over Chaddesley Corbett by a point and two points now separate the sides with eight matches remaining.
With the wind at their backs, Keresley kicked off, but they were soon under pressure from a Redditch side who rightly kept their passes short and released the backs to wreak havoc whenever possible.
Scrum-half James Mills was instrumental in all of this as his man of the match performance was key to ensuring the game plan was carried through, feeding the forwards to roll the ball forward then giving the backs their platform, with fly-half Will Heath and centre Tom Saddington punching multiple holes in the visitors’ defence.
However, it was contrary to all these tactics that Redditch scored first as a solid scrum on halfway allowed Matt Allen to pick and go and to everyone’s surprise he just kept going. With hardly a hand laid on him, he sped down the wing to score an unconverted try.
Keresley kicked off and repeated their earlier mistake of going too long and possession was turned over at the ensuing scrum. The wind played its part as lineouts were messy, long passes were risky and handling was not great. Although Keresley did gain some territorial advantage, they never looked likely to break through a resilient blue back line.
Stuart Brooks at No 8 was in a ripping mood, relieving the opposition of the ball at every opportunity and returning from injury Ash Mooney stretched his legs in the centre and caused problems all afternoon.
At full-back, Will Spires was in an unfamiliar position, but he ensured nothing passed him and his chasing game helped Redditch stay on the front foot.
Lock Chris Upton was involved with plenty of work in the tight but stood out with an aggressive burst of speed and power which saw him gain 40m to ultimately set up an attacking scrum and simple link play saw winger Jack Mertens dive over in the corner.
A 10-0 lead at the break was probably a better return than Redditch were expecting having been into the headwind, but it was thoroughly deserved.
In the second half, using the conditions to their advantage, they stayed mostly in the visitors’ half and slowly chipped away at the steadily flagging defence. Leo Fanthome was first to benefit when, with little space to manoeuvre, his dancing feet made room for him to score in the corner.
Saddington scored the bonus point try with a delightful chip and catch which tore the heart out of the Keresley defenders and he then rounded things off by taking advantage of some clinical passes and clean running lines to score the fifth. Mooney was able to convert one.
Redditch 2nds 24 Stourport 2nds 0
MEETING these opponents for the third time this season, Redditch fielded a changed side featuring established faces, some returning heads and a lot of young talent.
The combination proved irresistible as, playing up the considerable slope in the first half, they ran in four unanswered tries through Wayne Sharpe, Jack Heath, Will Baillon and TK.
The expected landslide with the hill in their favour did not happen as Stourport changed their game plan, kept the ball tight and opportunities dried up.
However, it was a very encouraging win for a Redditch side who have a few players competing for a coveted first team place.