Old Halesonians v Walsall
Old Halesonians 32 Walsall 29
This was a desperately disappointing result for Walsall in their final game of the season. They had dominated this Midlands One West match from start to finish and had worked hard to score four good tries. But on the few occasions that their Worcestershire opponents gained possession, they would immediately make good ground through a very brittle Walsall defence. The hosts scored five tries, with virtually everyone coming courtesy of some weak Walsall tackling.
Indeed, the pattern of the match was set in the third minute as the visitors did well to take the opposition ball at a scrum in the Old Hales twenty two. But, as so often from then on, the ball was spilled and the hosts gained possession and decided to run and pass the ball out of defence. A couple of crucial tackles were missed and winger Sutherland ran in a try from seventy meters.
Ten minutes later and Walsall were rewarded for their continued dominance when prop forward Pete Fitzgerald reacted quickly to pick up a loose ball and set off on a forty meter try scoring run. Matt Wood converted that try and another three minutes later. The Walsall outside half also scored the try after full back Chris Mould and Fitzgerald had cut through the Old Hales defence. But it wasn’t long before the hosts were in the lead. They scored two tries in four minutes, both coming through seemingly innocuous midfield runs. Walsall failed to make their tackles and found themselves 15 – 14 down. This soon became 18 – 14 as Hooper was eventually successful with one of his kicks.
The visitors, however, continued to monopolise possession and they regained the lead just before half time, as lock forward Nick Field drove over from close range. Another superb conversion kick by Wood gave his team a 21 – 18 half time lead. This became 26 – 18 after just two minutes of the restart as Tierney and Simpson carried the ball well for over forty meters. Some good handling saw winger Roger Weston and Mould exchange passes before the full back dived over in the corner. But, as so often this season, Walsall failed to deal with the restart and despite been given three opportunities, they failed to clear the ball from their own twenty two. The hosts managed to secure possession and were able to break through the attempted tackles for a score near the posts.
Another nightmare moment for Walsall saw the hosts regain the lead with about fifteen minutes remaining. The initial attack looked very promising for the visitors as Wootton, Simpson and Pittaway covered over fifty meters before the latter was tackled just ten meters from the try line. But the ball went loose and was scooped up by the speedy Sutherland, his eighty meter run resulted in a try at the other end of the field. Hooper’s conversion made it 32 – 26. The final ten minutes saw the visitors have plenty of possession and, indeed a penalty by the league’s top kicker Matt Wood, reduced the deficit to just three points. But even five minutes of scrummaging close to the Old Hales line failed to produce the expected try and the hosts held on for a rather unexpected victory.So Walsall finish their season with yet another narrow defeat. This was their seventh defeat by five points or less since September. They were also involved in two drawn games. So very much a season of ‘ if only’.