Desperately Disappointing Display by Walsall
Stafford 20 Walsall 19
Walsall suffered their first league defeat of the season after, what was at times, an abysmal performance at Stafford. They dominated possession for long periods, especially during the first half. But their players were guilty of squandering several easy scoring chances and, then, far too many tackles were missed at vital moments throughout the match. Unfortunately, Walsall, had once again, been forced to make changes to their selected team because of injuries. Replacements had to be found for four of their influential players. This would have seemed to be a factor that contributed to this very sub-standard performance. They started the game in a very positive mood and put Stafford under a great deal of early pressure. Full back Andy Taylor, who was making his Walsall debut, made a couple of line breaking runs. As did winger Jordan Lay. But it was the missed scoring opportunities that were to prove crucial during this period. Walsall players were guilty of failing to give easy scoring passes or delivered poor quality passes. This resulted in two easy scores being missed. The visitors eventually took the lead after Mitch Carless put over a twenty five meter penalty. They then added to this with a try by Connor McGuirk after scrum half Pittaway had made a well-placed kick deep into Stafford’s territory. The first half was coming to an end when the hosts made a rare visit into the Walsall twenty two. A forward drive and a quick pass saw flanker Windibank brush past a Walsall defender and cross for a try under the posts which Dewsbury converted.
The second half started with both teams adding to their scores. Dewsbury put his team ahead with a penalty from in front of the posts after the referee decided that Walsall had transgressed in the tackle area. The visitors made the ideal response and scored a good try almost immediately. It was centre Rob Angell that made the break before Jordan Lay was put clear to run in a try from twenty meters. The difficult conversion fell just short. Stafford continued to be a threat, especially through their lineout play. They levelled the score after the referee made yet another contentious decision at the breakdown. This time, what seemed to be an effective drive and ruck was deemed to be illegal. Dewsbury’s twenty five meter kick made it 13 – 13 with a quarter of the game to be played. The visitors managed to apply some pressure during the next ten minutes and managed to establish a lead after, firstly, Matt Wood and then Mitch Carless had put over thirty five meter penalty kicks. Flankers McGuirk and Hickman had both made good ball carries to create these attacking positions. This effort seemed to have given the visitors enough of an advantage to see them through to the end of the game. But with several stoppages during the match. The referee added fifteen minutes of extra time. During this extra period, credit has to be given to a Stafford team that attacked at every opportunity. They were helped by a Walsall team that had lost it’s composure. Kicks missed touch and tackles were not made. Eventually, in the fourteenth minute of extra time, flanker Jones broke through another feeble Walsall tackle to score the try. Dewsbury then put over the conversion to win the game and signal the start of the Stafford celebrations.