Panthers back to winning ways
Tries Jake Blair x 2
Glenn Grayson x 1
Sam Martin x 1
Tom Arnold x 1
Conversions Adam Pedley x 5
The Panthers hosted Leicestershire club Birstall in their last home game of the season. With temperatures approaching 25 degrees and the coffin club in full attendance, the stage was set for a fast flowing game of rugger to entertain the capacity crowd.
'Did the two teams read the script and deliver this?' I hear you ask. Yes they did, the home team put in an Oscar winning display that was never going straight to DVD!
It was Birstall who kicked off, winning their own kick and applying early pressure, Chesterfield having to defend for the opening 5 mins and eventually forcing a knock on from the resulting scrum. The ball was moved wide early, James Marshall adding the pace and power, timing his pass to perfection for Jake Blair to run in his first try of the day and Adam Pedley slotting the conversion. Birstall hit back straight from the restart putting the phases together to gain field position and win a kickable penalty, Luke adding the 3 points. From the restart, Chesterfield put in a real aggressive defensive display keeping Birstall well pegged in their own 22. The turnover came via great forwards work, Glenn Grayson latching onto a pass from younger brother Jordan to score in the corner and again Adam Pedley converting from a tight angle.
Again from the restart, Chesterfield applied the defensive pressure, both backs and forwards working hard to deny Birstall any ground. Unfortunately, bad timing gave away a penalty and welcome respite for the away team, their fly half opted to bring out the big guns going for distance to gain some much needed field position. He looked to have put in a bomb with everyone resigned for the lineout. Glenn Grayson leapt like a salmon to field the kick and return it with purpose, covering 70 meters. Sam Martin running the support line to receive the pop pass and out-muscle the cover defence to score in the corner again with Pedders slotting the extra 2 from another tight angle.
Birstall showed why they are several positions higher than the Panthers over the next ten mins, really dominating the play. Chesterfield were conceding penalties to slow them down, they opted for a lineout rather than points from the resulting catch and drive and Daniel broke down the short side to score unconverted.
In previous weeks this could have been a turning point in the game but not on this occasion! It acted as a catalyst for the Panthers to step up a gear and again from the restart the defensive pressure was applied, forcing a scrum on the 22. With the Panthers' attack and Birstall's defence all set up on the open side, the switch was called Marshall who was again powering through and drawing the defence, freeing Jake up with just the fullback to beat. He managed to step against the grain, wrong footing the tackle to get his second try of the day and yet again Adam Pedley getting the extra 2.
Half time score Chesterfield 28 - 8 Birstall
Changes were made at half time both in front row and the backs. Reece Newton had been chomping at the bit to show what he could do and prove to the coaches he wanted a starting 15 place in the next game. Unfortunately the timing of the first tackle from the big man was out, earning him a yellow card and putting the Panthers down to 14 for the next ten mins. Again, in weeks gone by this could have turned the game on its head but no! The pack found another gear to nullify the numerical difference, no need to single individuals out because as an 8 both in defence and countless lung busting ball carries they were awesome.
Eventually numerical parity was restored along with several changes, birthday boy Chris Cooper replacing the impressive Sam Martin and the old war horse Stumpy taking a well earned rest. At this stage the heat got to both teams and the pace of the game started to slow, neither team making much ground. To be fair, it looked like Birstall were going to get themselves a breakaway try with an interception on their own 5 metre line. This set up a foot race between their centre and our full back - credit to both players in this heat and at this stage of the game to compete in such intensity. With both teams watching with bated breath and the coffin club placing more bets on the outcome than they were on the grand national, the ref pulled it back for an alleged knock on! We will never know the outcome of that race but the next time you watch chariots of fire spare a thought for these two sprinters.
The final try of the game came from forward of the match, Tom Arnold, which is impressive considering he's played all his rugby at centre. Tom showed his trademark power and seemed to carry most of the Birstall team over the line with him and again, Pedders boot accurate to convert.
Final score Panthers 35 - 8 Birstall
A great team performance lads, the coffin club awarding Tom Arnold forward of the match and Adam Pedley back of the match.
Special mentions went to the whole squad for a stand out team performance, not a weak link on the pitch or bench. Well done to Adam Rodd for playing his first game for the first team at hooker - a solid display from the young man.