A hugely disappointing result for Harbury in one of two post Christmas matches they had targeted to restore their fortunes. At the beginning of the season they were playing some thrilling rugby with excellent offloading and support play, however, the enforced withdrawal through injury and outside commitments robbed the team of one of its most influential on field leaders. They did nonetheless continue in rich winning form until the beginning of November. Their unexpected loss away to Tenbury reminded all of how a degree of complacency can materially affect the participants.
Unfortunately, with a difficult few matches ahead of them one sensed a loss of direction and matches in which they would have been highly competitive were lost. They did return to winning ways with a nervy win over Church Stretton in the quarter finals of the Junior Vase but the brillo and dynamic play of previous months were missing.
It should be mentioned that the effort put into each match continues to be commendable. It is though the lack of leadership on the field which is worrying. Inevitably too much urgency is occurring when perhaps taking time in choosing options might serve the team better.
Redditch have shown considerable improvement over the last few months and their defence in particular has been tightened significantly. It was hard to believe that this was the same team whom Harbury had taken 50 points from just four months ago. However, some new faces have added zest and determination in their backline and it was this very much coupled with defence that won them the match.
Harbury were forced to play the game in the first half largely between the half way line and their goal line. Indeed first blood almost went with the visitors through two penalty goal attempts. It took Harbury a quarter of an hour to move the game into Redditch territory. Whilst running rugby is highly commendable pragmatism needs to be the governing factor. A strong wind was blowing down the pitch and behind Harbury in the first half. The hosts who ought to know the geography of the pitch well just did not play the game enough in their opponents half. A superb penalty kick from Ricky Alford taken inside his own 22 landed just 10 metres from the Redditch goal line and from this the first positive move by Harbury was taken. Their forwards, who were largely on top throughout the match, drove towards the visitor’s line. The initial surge was stopped and three more scrums were awarded to Harbury, on each occasion white line fever seemed to be the order of the day but these efforts were repelled. On a forth scrum the ball was carried to the line, take by scrum half Will Godwin who touched down by the posts. Ricky Alford converted for a 7-0 half time lead. This was always going to be a difficult amount to defend and so it proved,
Redditch eventually got onto the board with a penalty and using the wind well they won a five metre line out and from this despite some excellent cover from Harbury their scrum half found just enough space to squeeze in at the corner. This took Redditch into an 8-7 lead. They added another try following a good move down their back line and their quick right wing scored wide out. The conversion was missed but extended their lead to six points.
Harbury upped the ante and in the final ten minutes put Redditch under severe pressure. The visitors were being penalised regularly and from a five metre scrum in the 79th minute Harbury took a reset scrum and drove the opposition pack backwards, the visiting forwards were in the air and their scrum dismantled – a penalty try surely? Not so according to the referee, although he yellow carded a Redditch forward and reset the scrum. Redditch put absolutely everything into this final set piece and successfully drove back Harbury, won a penalty and the match.
Harbury’s search for a win continues away to Stoke Old Boys on Saturday 3 February.
Updated 11:35 - 30 Jan 2018 by Tom Kittendorf