Determined Whitchurch Secure Vital Win
Walsall 32 Whitchurch 33
This end of season game had far more significance for Whitchurch than Walsall. The hosts are now looking for a fourth or fifth place league finish. While in contrast the Shropshire team were looking for a win to avoid the possibility of relegation from Midlands One West. The final result gives a fairly accurate reflection of a high scoring, free flowing game of rugby with Whitchurch’s fighting qualities securing them an unlikely victory.
Both teams scored four tries, and only some desperate defending stopped further scores for both teams. The opening try came from Church’s first attack. They were moving the ball wide, but Walsall winger Rafa Ingelmo intercepted a pass and outraced the defence over seventy meters to score a try which Matt Wood converted. The visitors drew level after a few minutes, their trademark catch and drive from a lineout giving Ollie Bates a touchdown which Nicholas converted. Walsall continued to produce some threatening periods of play, but it was Whitchurch that got the next score. The host failed to control the ball in a tackle and the visitors launched an effective fifty meter counter attack which saw flanker Brereton getting the touchdown. The scoring frenzy continued as Walsall were the next to score with only fifteen minutes played. Scrum half Liam Lloyd took a quick penalty after centre Harvey Wootton had made good ground. Some well-timed passing saw winger Andy Turner finish off with a try by the corner flag. There were plenty of opportunities during the rest of the half, but there were no further scores until the final minutes. Nicholas gave his team the lead with a penalty,although there was controversy preceding the decision. Lloyd was about to deliver a try launching pass when it seemed he was tackled by an offside defender. This was ignored by the referee! But just before the half time whistle the Walsall centres combined well with Wootton giving a well-timed pass which saw Ben Potts slice through from twenty meters. Wood’s conversion gave his team a 19-15 interval lead. The hosts were forced to make two replacements before the end of the half as injuries forced Dave Merlin and Andrew Fitzgerald to leave the field. Russell Gauden replaced Merlin and Jeffrey Williamson came on to make his first team debut at flanker.
The start of the second half proved to be a crucial time in terms of the final match result. Walsall failed to gather the kick off and Whitchurch gained a penalty from the ensuing melee. Nicholas put over the thirty five meter kick. Five minutes later the host’s defence failed to deal with a long clearance kick, and another penalty was conceded. This time Nicholas was on target from thirty meters to give Whitchurch a 21-19 lead. But back came Walsall with a forty meter catch and drive from the lineout. When the ball was released to the backs, Wood,Wootton and Potts combined to give Ingelmo the space to go over for his second try. A well struck conversion from Wood made it 26 – 21. But another mix up at the kick off reception by Walsall resulted in them gifting a try to their opponents. Scrum half Matthews scooped up the ball and strolled over for a try from fifteen yards. The easy conversion saw the Shropshire team take a two point lead. But the hosts seemed to be finishing the game in a more determined mood and they produced some good drives. Two of these resulted in the visitors conceding penalties, and Wood was on target with two thirty meter kicks that saw Walsall lead 32-28 with just three minutes left. But they could not hang-on on this occasion, as a clearance kick was charged down and No8 Robinson gathered the ball and crashed over for what proved to be the final score. The final action of the game saw Wood put a forty meter penalty just inches wide of the upright, thus ensuring that Whitchurch had managed to win a game which guaranteed their league status next season.