Manor Park, Coventrians and Coventry Welsh lead the way with Warwickshire Extras rugby
THE theme of Warwickshire rugby in 2017 has been the slow erosion of extras rugby – the goal in 2018 must simply be to arrest the decline.
While many one-club towns have been hit by issues regarding player availability and opposition cry offs, it might be excusable for a club of Manor Park’s size to simply accept that ‘these are the times we’re living in’.
Especially when a raft of unavailable players forced first team captain Chris Goode to stretch his first team squad to its limits to travel to Old Leamingtonians – themselves only fielding one side on Saturday afternoon.
Sensing that numbers would be short, Manor Park teamed up with Coventrians early in the week with both clubs contributing players to face Coventry Welsh on Saturday afternoon.
Even on the morning of the match, Park lost four more players for varying reasons. And with the pitch still frozen in patches, maybe it was one step too far for the second team.
Without a first team fixture, Coventry Welsh travelled strong with an ever-growing substitute’s bench that was emptied throughout the course of the afternoon.
But it was Park who struck first when Dave Morris
finished forcibly in scoreboard corner after good work from the backs from solid setpiece ball.
It was the foundations of a totally dominant scrum which kept Coventry Welsh on the backfoot. Their big ball runners were given precious few opportunities to register the scores that were threatened.
With Jon Marsh
and Scott Brown kicking their side out of trouble, the midfield partnership of Elliot Lucas
and Adam Bennett
closed down the midfield channels with Simon Wilson marshalling well from scrum-half.
Attacking down the slope in the second-half, it was Manor Park old boy Karl Ledington who emerged from a pile of bodies from a rolling maul to score the try which was improved from the touchline.
A try-saving tackle from Sean Slinn
denied Welsh further building their lead and a turnover on his own line from Bobby Bridge
sparked the beginning of Park working their way back up the pitch.
After some strong work from the forwards, Park camped themselves in Welsh territory with a 15-metre scrum push and numerous long walks from lineouts. This paved the way for Bennett to crash in on the angle back across the pitch to score his side’s second try that was improved by Brown.
The penalties continued to arrive in Park’s favour and when another surging scrum was ended by the Welsh fly-half running in to hack the ball, the opposition were down to 14 men. Park kicked the penalty and went two scores ahead.
With veteran Chris Smith producing a superb man-of-the-match performance for Manor Park and the likes of Neil Fitzpatrick
and Christian Smith
allying scrum superiority with stellar work around the pitch, Park hung on to win by eight points.
Cries of ‘three cheers for Coventry Barbarians’ by Coventry Welsh raised a laugh, as this was far from a cut-and-dried second team on their part, but it was all part of the context of a match which could become the template for the future of Warwickshire extras rugby.
Manor Park go into the new year with their goals fixed. To maintain their position in Midlands 3 West South and deliver a regular second team to the pitch.
This can be achieved with the help of other clubs, but ideally without as players return from injury and captains hope for greater consistency with availability within the ranks.
Either way, this was a strong way for the club to end 2017 and bodes well for a fresh assault on the new calendar year.