Walsall Finish with a Win
Walsall 9 Burton 0
Walsall had the satisfaction of finishing, what has been a difficult season, with a win over one of their traditional Staffordshire opponents. The team produced an inspired performance and showed qualities which have been missing during most of their matches this season. The 9 – 0 victory was in stark contrast to the 77 – 7 defeat at Peel Croft on the opening day of the campaign last September. The unexpected victory was based on an outstanding defensive performance, with all of the players producing crucial tackles that continuously repelled Burton attacks. This was especially so during the second half, when most of the game was played in Walsall territory. The hosts showed early confidence and were soon on the attack, but a spilled pass was reminiscent of other games this season. However, this pressure forced the visitors to concede a penalty which Roger Weston
converted from twenty five meters. Moments later the visitors had a similar scoring opportunity. But they declined the fairly easy kick and decided to go for a lineout and a forward drive. But Weaver, Blackwood and Benson were quick to disrupt their plans and the ball was cleared to safety. This tended to be the pattern to a game that had two teams showing a great deal of endeavour, but struggle to maintain much structure to their play. It was Walsall’s, Reece Bennett, that created the only other scoring opportunities of the half. A superb forty meter break resulted in him being tackled illegally and Weston put over a thirty meter penalty. Moments later the flanker broke away again. But with support players available, he chose to kick and chase without success. Both teams were guilty of failing to retain possession for any sustained period, with this leading to a rather disjointed contest. The visitors had a couple of scoring chances when they eventually secured a position close to the Walsall line. But some ‘heroic’ tackling by Benson, Bennett, Blackwood and Weaver resulted in Walsall managing to deny their opponents of any scores. A feat that had not been seen all season. This defensive commitment was maintained by all of the players, including Richard Towe
. The ‘experienced’ centre came on as a replacement for his first appearance in two years. An even greater contribution was made by debutant Ethan Walker
. The Queen Mary’s and county schools player had few opportunities to show his attacking skills. But he was required to make several defensive tackles. He was involved in a midfield chase and tackle that led to the final match winning penalty. Walsall were defending desperately during the final minutes before the ball was passed to Weston for a pressure reliving kick. The Walsall centre sent the ball over fifty meters deep into Burton territory. Walker chased the kick and then made a superb tackle as the visitors attempted to launch a counter attack. Burton, however, had support players in offside positions and Walsall were awarded a penalty by a referee who had showed good control throughout the afternoon. Weston stepped up once again and sent a forty five meter kick sailing over the crossbar. Soon afterwards the final whistle was blown to end the game. Despite the victory, Walsall were already doomed to relegation from Midlands One West.