Reds earn extra time Somerset Cup Final victory
Old Redcliffians came out on top after one hundred minutes of hard rugby in the Somerset Cup Final with North Petherton.
Old Redcliffians went into the Somerset Cup Final against North Petherton, without influential skipper Sean Fox, injured leading try scorer Henry Bird and second row Mike Kempton and hooker Craig McGrath restricted to starting on the bench following a neck problem sustained the previous Saturday; against a side who had beaten Weston-super-Mare in their semi-final. Dave Harris moved out to the wing, and Liam McCreight started in the front row.
Both sides looked to gain the early advantage and the first chance of points of the evening came as early as the second minute with North Petherton’s full back Harry Roberts missing a tricky penalty. Reds regained possession shortly after and looked to move the ball quickly in hand. After recycling the ball well at the breakdown they moved possession right finding Henry Goldson out wide with half a chance. A strong run close to touch saw him breakthrough two tackles to score the first try of the evening wide on the right, Jack Steer just failing to convert.
North Petherton looked to use their large men upfront mauling and running close to the breakdown, with their centres carrying the ball well back towards the forwards. Both sides worked tirelessly at the breakdown; Pethy were edging in the loose with referee Chris Newton continually penalising Reds at the breakdown and on the offside line. After a series of forward drives North Petherton released quick ball to the right and created space for winger Damian Griffin to burst through and score in the right hand corner, the conversion from a narrow angle was wide and the sides were level at 5 points apiece. When Reds managed to string some plays together after a stop start period of play dominated by the referee’s whistle they were awarded a kickable penalty 35 metres out on the right but Steer’s effort was off target.
The Redcliffians pack were getting a foothold in the game and winning some good ball; when Petherton were penalised at a maul on the half hour mark Ashley Groves kicked to the corner and a line out close to the line, with a Reds throw, gave a good attacking platform. Clean ball was won in the middle by Dan Fry but rather than the driving maul that was expected, it was flanker Jed Hooper who peeled round the front of the front at pace to catch the defence off guard and score wide out on the left. The conversion was short, but Reds were in front 10 – 5. Both sides continued to work the ball well in hand in the final quarter of the first period. Petherton’s outside half Jervis Manapenu controlling things behind the scrum bringing strong centre Tito Elisara into the play at every opportunity. Reds countered with some good runs from centre Christian Jervais and flanker Max Woodward was getting to the breakdown first and carrying the ball well to create opportunities; but the score remained the same until half time.
Reds started the second period brightly and worked the ball upfield with forwards and backs combining well with ball in hand. When Pethy were penalised for not releasing Ashley Groves landed the resulting kick to increase the lead. Reds hard working front row with props Lewis Wilson and Jake Morse exerting pressure won a further penalty minutes later and Groves was successful again to extend the lead to 16 – 8. North Petherton were next on the board, from possession that seemed to be going nowhere midfield, right winger Griffin landed a well struck drop goal. The fierce but fair forward exchanges continued for the next few minutes, but it was Reds who fell foul of the referee to lose a man to the yellow card.
North Petherton enjoyed a god spell of pressure forcing Reds back on numerous occasions, using their numerical advantage, and after patient recycling the ball was worked to replacement Gavin Hancock who entered the line at real pace to break through to score and level things up with a few minutes to go; the all-important conversion from the sideline again going wide. Craig McGrath entered the fray from the bench to bolster things in the pack and the last minutes of the half belonged to Reds but the defence couldn’t be breeched. In the final moments the referee awarded Old Reds a penalty on the angle to the right of the posts some 40 metres out, Groves went for goal but his kick was agonisingly short and the referee blew for full time with the sides locked at 16 points all.
The sides had given everything but faced ten minutes each way of extra time with it all to play for. Full back Craig Owen, off the bench for Steer, started to threaten and quick second phase created by Reds back row allowed the ball be to be run at the Petherton defence. Quick distribution from scrum half Richard Stevens and slick hands created a gap and Owen who burst through and score a good try with Groves adding the extras to put Redcliffians back in front 23 – 16. Old Reds kept the tempo up for the next few minutes and forced the opposition back and they defended in depth, Woodward in support took the ball up to the line. When it was worked back to Groves a neat cross kick into the in-goal area was just touched down by Dave Harris for another try. Groves low conversion kick from wide out just carried and Redcliffians were suddenly 14 points to the good and looking confident. The sides played out the final couple of minutes of the first period of extra time and the teams turned round.
North Petherton applied early pressure from the kick off knowing they had to score quickly to have a chance; but strong tackling kept them at bay for the first few plays, Reds stuck to the task but eventually their resistance was broken and replacement Sam Butler outpaced a weary defence to score a good try to give them hope; crucially the conversion was missed and they still needed two scores to win, with Reds 30 – 21 in front.
As the final period of extra time progressed Reds used the ball wisely and played in the visitors half. Anthony Davies won good line out ball and number eight Fry carried well in attack; backed up by good tackling from all quarters, with a good work rate the pressure mounted and fittingly it was man of the match Max Woodward who was on the end of a sweeping move to touch down wide on the right, the score going unconverted. The referee’s whistle sounded shortly after and the final score was Old Redcliffians 35 North Petherton 21. Reds had won a hard fought victory over good opposition who had pushed them all the way on the night.
Old Redcliffians:[i] Tries - H Goldson, J Hooper, D Harris, C Owen, M Woodward. Conversions – A Groves (2). Penalties - A Groves (2)