Walsall Struggle at Salts
Saltleians 19 Walsall 19
Walsall, on several occasions this season, have only showed glimpses of their true ability when they are away from Delves Road. During this latest encounter at Saltleians, they showed that they were capable of producing a series of phases and seemed to be in control of the game. But, by the time the final whistle was blown, they were fortunate to salvage a draw!
It was yet another game that saw Walsall being forced to rearrange the team prior to the kick off. This time it was outside half, and captain, Matt Wood that had to withdraw because of an illness. This was followed by centre Andy Taylor being stretchered off with a leg injury after thirty minutes.
The strong cross field wind resulted in both teams trying to gain ground with some accurate kicks. It was a Walsall cross field kick that lead to the first try. But, it did not reach the intended recipient. A kind bounce saw it land in the hands of Burrows, the Saltleians winger, who then ran in the try from thirty five meters. Simpson adding the easy conversion.
The next fifteen minutes saw Walsall in full control of the game with their strong set piece and driving game constantly putting the opposition under intense pressure. They had their first score after hooker Alex Jones finished off a powerful drive from a lineout. Weston added the conversion to level the scores. Five minutes later a similar phase of play saw Pete Fitzgerald make a strong carry before quick passing put Andy Taylor into space. The Walsall centre showed good footwork to score from twenty meters. It was not long afterwards that Taylor was injured and forced to leave the field, after being involved in another attack.
The visitors had further opportunities. Scrum half Pittaway put Fitzgerald through for a score, however, the pass was adjudged to have been forward. But the players were guilty, once again this season, of squandering try scoring opportunities. Possession would be kicked away, possession was lost or passes were not delivered. The hosts, in contrast, displayed some good handling skills and they took the lead just before half time, when centre Davies finished off an attack for a try which Simpson converted.
The second half was a rather frustrating period for the Walsall players and their supporters. The team showed a more controlled attacking intent and made several effective forays deep into Salts territory. They were again guilty of not finishing off their plays. But they were also regularly, rather harshly in several instances, penalised for various offences.
They did regain the lead with another good piece of play. No8 Merlin and winger Williamson had made good line breaking carries before the ball was passed wide. Full back Weston made good ground before passing to Ethan Walker. The Walsall winger showed good speed and footwork to finish off from thirty meters. Weston’s conversion gave his team a 14 – 19 advantage. The visitors found themselves in good attacking positions on several other occasions. Indeed, they should have scored another try, but the ball was kicked ahead instead of it being passed. However, several of the other opportunities were stopped by the referee’s whistle. A Walsall driving scrum being penalised was particularly disheartening for the forwards and the coaches! All these penalties resulted in the hosts securing good attacking positions. They, eventually, levelled the score with a good try after accurate passing put Burrows over for his second. Simpson, missed the conversion from wide out. But he also attempted, and was close, with three more long range penalties which would have almost certainly given his team the win.