Woodrush 27 Rugby St Andrews 19
Midlands Three West (South)
WOODRUSH moved top of the table with a fifth win from six league games which extended their unbeaten home record this campaign.
The north Warwickshire visitors were lively throughout but went home empty-handed thanks to a resilient performance from the Rush.
The hosts elected to play up the slope in the first period and strove to move the ball and carry rather than kick for field position in the opening encounters. However, St Andrews exhibited a claustrophobic press defence which, in the end, forced the kick option to make ground.
From the ensuing lineout the visitors tried to put width on the ball but the pressure exerted by debutant Fran Pugh and James Evans in the centres saw spilled ball being dribbled up the field by the latter for the ever-youthful Steve Smart to outsprint the cover and dab down between the posts, leaving an easy conversion for himself.
The home side visibly rose in confidence from this score and a thrilling move first through the forwards carrying hard into the resolute away defence and then a beautifully timed pass by Smart to Evans running an unstoppable line put Woodrush two scores clear with just 20 minutes gone.
St Andrews reminded the sizeable home crowd of their credentials by pulling a score back with a try through their robust forward pack following the home team’s inexplicable inability to deal with a straightforward kick-off receipt.
However, the move of the match just a few minutes later saw Evans burst through two tackles and show his recent gym work has done nothing to reduce his step or his genuine pace to cross, leaving the Rush tantalisingly close to a try bonus point against a side which will certainly be in the mix for the title this season.
However, deja vu on the restart saw St Andrews respond in kind with a try of their own and leave the game finely balanced at half time with the home team 24-14 up.
There is no doubt the second half was by no means a feast of running rugby but it never dropped to anything but a frenetic pace. At times the contact area was physically brutal but remained within the laws.
The hosts will be disappointed they failed to take control with the slope at their back and a soft penalty at the first breakdown of the second half saw a lineout catch and drive from the well organised visitors put them within one score of the home team.
Woodrush brought Tom Wagg on into the back row and he improved the level of control at the breakdown by winning key turnovers and giving the home team field position to generate a penalty attempt which the metronomic boot of Smart slotted over with ease to offer Woodrush a two-score advantage with just 20 minutes left.
The remaining quarter was largely fought out between the two 22m lines with no real try-scoring opportunities for either side, which was a testament to the impressive defences of both sides which will no doubt underpin their respective claims to league honours this season.
There were fine Woodrush performances all round but in particular Evans, imperious at centre, Pugh who debuted strongly inside him and Ryan Phelan at eight who underpinned the strength in depth of this developing squad who are making quite a noise for themselves at this early stage of the season.
Woodrush visit Ledbury on Saturday.