Woeful Display by Walsall
Cleobury Mortimer 34 Walsall 30
This was Walsall’s first ever visit to Cleobury, and it will be one that they will wish to forget. They faced a team that have been struggling this season and find themselves already relegated from Midlands Two West. But credit must be given to the Shropshire outfit because they produced a fully committed performance and displayed some excellent attacking rugby. The visitors, in contrast, struggled to gain any fluency in their game. They were reasonably competent in their set plays. However, in the open play situations, they were often lethargic and were guilty of frequent errors in attack and defence. The Walsall team had been forced to make changes because of injuries, consequently the defensive qualities of Mike Benson, was sorely missed.
The only memorable moment of the game, as far as Walsall were concerned, came just after half time. This saw eighteen year old Jamie Harding make his debut for Walsall. coming onto the field as a replacement. Jamie is the son of Rob Harding, a former captain and director of rugby at Walsall, who had played over 400 games for the club. The second half kick off was collected by Roger Weston. The Walsall full back then made an excellent forty meter run and then found Harding in support. The young flanker collected his first touch of the ball and then held off would be tacklers as he made a twenty-five meter try scoring run!
This try and Weston’s conversion had given the visitors the lead for the first time. The hosts were in front after two minutes of the match, as Gittings finished off a flowing attack. A Weston penalty then gave the visitors their first points. Another Cleobury try ten minutes later came as fly half Bills cut through the Walsall defence from twenty meters with Edwards adding the conversion. The next ten minutes were Walsall’s best period of the whole game. They produced some constructive play and should have scored tries before No8 Hal Gozukucuk, who had already gone close, finally crossed the tryline. Weston added the conversion. But it wasn’t long before the brittle Walsall defence was breached once more. Flanker Samways going through some feeble attempted tackles for a try which Edwards converted. The visitors looked threatening at times, but often attacks would fail because of a lack of support or players being guilty of some poor handling skills. Eventually, just before half time the Delves Road team did put together a sustained try scoring attack. Once again it was a Gozukucuk run that instigated the score, he found Ainger and Hickman in support. When stopped, the ball was moved quickly to fly half Matt Wood. He linked up with Will Hennessey, who then delivered a long pass to Jordan McColl. The young winger showed good speed and strength to run in the try from twenty-five meters. Weston then added a testing conversion. Even then, another error at the restart eventually led to Edwards kicking a penalty for the hosts on the stroke of half time. Harding ensured that the second half would start in dramatic fashion as he scored his try after Weston’s run. The visitors eased into a 27 – 22 lead after another offside gave Weston another successful penalty kick. Walsall’s advantage was short lived as, once again, they failed to deal with the restart. The Shropshire team regained possession and with some good inter passing flanker Leach went over for the try with Edwards adding the conversion. Late in the half Weston put over a forty-five-meter penalty to give his team a one point advantage. This was short lived however as another Cleobury attack off a scrum resulted in replacement Bird going over wide out for what proved to be the winning score.