Bennett and Claxton at the double
Elthamians held off a strong second half fightback by the home side to secure a hard fought victory thanks to two tries apiece from Renford Bennett and Ollie Claxton.
Birmingham Moseley 28 Old Elthamians 32
Another rollercoaster afternoon for Old Elthamians who seem intent on finding new ways of making life as difficult as possible for themselves while at the same time shredding the nerves of their supporters into the bargain.
Two tries apiece from Ollie Claxton and Renford Bennett spearheaded a hugely impressive Elthamians’ first half effort which looked to have wrapped up this game, complete with the bonus point, by half-time.
But in a dramatic swing in momentum after the break, Birmingham Moseley came roaring back to win the second period 21-6, and leave OEs desperate to hear the final whistle.
There was little sign of the drama to come in the early exchanges as the visitors quickly took a firm stranglehold on proceedings. Indeed, for the first 30 minutes, Elthamians were totally dominant with a display as good as any they have produced this season. They monopolised possession, worked through the phases intelligently and played at a tempo that the home side simply could not live with.
It took them just six minutes to breach the home defence when scrum-half Ollie Claxton dived over from close range following good work from his pack, Joe Carlisle converting.
The lively Claxton struck again just three minutes later when he jinked his way over from a driven lineout in the Birmingham 22 to leave the home side, down 14-0 inside 10 minutes, in some disarray defensively.
Things quickly got worse for the home side when Joe Carlisle, outstanding all afternoon at fly-half, intercepted a hopeful pass just inside the Birmingham half and raced for the line. Realising he was not going to beat the covering defenders, he checked his run, cut back towards his support and off-loaded to Renford Bennett, coming up like a steam train inside him, who sprinted to the posts.
It took the shell-shocked home side 37 minutes to finally mount a worthwhile attack in the Elthamians 22 and to their credit they took full advantage. Great work from industrious flanker Jacques le Roux broke two tackles bursting away from a maul, before off-loading to prop Tom Fidler who barrelled his way to the posts, Ollie Allsop converting.
Birmingham’s delight was to be short-lived, however, as Elthamians were to have the last word of a an action-packed first 40 minutes when quick hands from the backs created an overlap down the left flank for the lively Bennett to sprint away from his opposite number and touch down in the corner for his second try.
The bonus point for four tries in the bag and a commanding 26-7 interval lead, Elthamians looked to have the game sewn up when Carlisle added a 49th minute penalty.
But as so often this season, and as director of rugby Gavin Lach admitted afterwards, OEs do like making life as difficult as possible for themselves in the second half of games.
The writing had been on the wall for the OEs scrum in the first half when they found the big Moseley eight a real handful. But now a powerful home scrum sparked a dramatic moment shift in this contest and provided the platform from which the resurgent home side launched such a sustained fightback in OEs territory, that the visitors were left hanging on grimly to their lead for dear life.
The Moseley revival began on 55 minutes when their forwards forced their way into the 22 and after a series of scrums had the OEs pack creaking, No.8 Ciaran Moore forced his way over from close range
Unrecognisable from their first half performance, the home forwards now began to make serious in-roads into the OEs defence. With the visitors’ line now under siege, it wasn’t long before Elthamians picked up their customary yellow card, this time prop Alex Rogers being dispatched to the sin bin. Birmingham took full advantage of a reshuffled OEs pack at the resulting 5 metre scrum to win the penalty try from referee George Selwood.
Behind by just a converted try entering the final 10 minutes, the home side continue to batter away at the wall of yellow and blue shirts, but the Elthamians back row secured a crucial turnover which allowed flanker Hamish Barton to break into the Birmingham half and relieve the pressure.
When Birmingham were penalised for handling in a ruck three minutes before the end, replacement Tom White made no mistake with what was to prove a crucial three pointer because there was still time for the home side to come roaring back in the dying seconds.
After concerted pressure again on the OEs line, replacement Andy Fluker was able to dart his way over for a converted try with the final play of the game to secure a deserved two losing bonus points for the home side.
Tries: Fidler 37 Moore 55, Penalty try 68, Fluker 80
Cons: Allsop x 3 (38, 56, 80)
Tries: Claxton x 2 (6,9), Bennett x 2 (23,40)
Pen: Carlisle (49), White (77)
Cons: Carlisle x 3 (7,10,24)
Old Elthamians: Surman, Golledge, Moffat, Wilkins, Bennett, Carlisle, Claxton, L Brown, Morris, Rogers, Preocanin, King, Messum, Barton, Denbee. Replacements: North, Rudland-Thomas, Munnelly, White, Parker.
Referee: George Selwood
Half-time: Birmingham Moseley 7 Old Elthamians 26