Walsall Finish Season in Style
Walsall 70 Old Halesonians 24
Walsall finished in sixth place in Midlands One West after an emphatic victory over Halesonians at Delves Road. Indeed, it was a rather remarkable score line, in as much as Walsall had conceded a similar amount of points the previous Saturday. The make-up of their score was also exactly the same, as the home team also scored ten tries and outside half Matt Wood converted everyone.
The Walsall team, were strengthened by the return of Chris Mould and Richard Towe, and it was very evident that they wanted to erase the memory of last week’s heavy defeat.
Only two minutes had been played before the sizeable crowd were treated to some fine rugby skills as the hosts launched their first attack from a lineout near the halfway line. The ball was moved to flanker Daniel Simpson, who made good ground before being tackled. Some quick passing saw Wood combine with full back Mould, who released winger Neil Pittaway. He then found Wood in support, and then a fine pass was collected by centre Richard Towe, who burst through for the try. Ten minutes later and the hosts scored a superb try from an attack that started near their own line. It was started by winger Tom Emes, as he gathered a loose ball and evaded would be tacklers before linking up with Mould. He found No 8 Adam Parr in support and he made twenty meters before linking up with Simpson. The powerful flanker was being hauled down, when he flicked a delightful pass to centre Ben Shepherd. The final ten meter run and touchdown was wildly cheered by the home supporters.
Since the hosts were obviously intent on attacking at every opportunity, it was evident that they would make mistakes and allow their opponents some scoring opportunities. Midway through the half, Halesonians got their first score, when Walsall failed to clear a kick. The visitors retained possession from a scrum, which eventually saw No 8 Adrian Adshead crash over for a try which was converted by Arran Higgins.
Five minutes later the hosts hit back. Once again the initial break was made by Emes. The speedy winger linked up with Mould, he found scrum half James Bishop in support and he had enough speed to cross near the posts.
It was not long before the crowd were treated to another super Walsall try as Shepherd acted as scrum half to get a long pass to Wood. He moved the ball to Mould, who made a fine run before feeding Towe. The tall centre cut back towards the posts before finding Simpson in support. This time the strong running flanker had enough speed and strength to score a fine try.
The hosts were now attacking at every opportunity, and yet another surge by Emes initiated another score. Mould was once again in support and this time it was Wood who received the final pass to score the try.
The half came to an end with a try for the visitors. Winger Luke Smith took advantage of some hesitancy in the Walsall defence to gather the ball and score wide out.
The first ten minutes of the second half started badly for Walsall. No 8 Parr was forced off with a back injury and the visitors fought back well scoring two tries. Another for Smith, and a good finish for his fellow winger Spencer Sutherland made it 35 – 24 with still thirty minutes to play.
But captain Steve Halbert, playing his hundredth game for the club, regrouped his team, and after a twenty meter forward drive Walsall were awarded a scrum near their opponent’s line. This gave Halbert the opportunity to control the ball at the base of the scrum before picking it up and crashing over. The next score came after full back Mould had made a fifty meter run before being pushed into touch. Walsall won the resulting lineout and the ball was fed to prop forward Ian Bradshaw, he broke through would be tacklers to score wide out. It was a similar scenario two minutes later. This time the Walsall forwards won a lineout and kept control of the ball as they covered twenty five meters before lock forward Alex Woodward touched down. There were two more tries in the final five minutes. Bishop got his second as the powerful Walsall scrum drove their opponents back fifteen meters before he gathered the ball and dived over. The final move of the match, and of the season, was a fitting finale to a thoroughly entertaining game. The hosts moved the ball from deep in their own half. Andy Hawkins had come on as a replacement, and he found Wood in the centre position. He showed good speed to make a thirty meter break through the Halesonians defence. Mould, as always, was in support, and on this occasion he jinked his way past defenders for another marvellous try. Matt Wood stepped up and put over his tenth successive conversion to equal Tom Archer’s club record set in February 2005