Walsall Fail to Hang on in the Snow
Walsall 9 Spartans 13
The first twenty minutes of this latest Midlands League encounter at Delves Road, was played in virtually constant blizzard conditions. It was the hosts that faced these artic conditions during the first half, and to their credit, they worked hard to restrict their opponents to just a 6 – 3 lead at the interval. Tom Hardy kicked two penalties for the visitors during the final quarter of the half. While Roger Weston put over an excellent thirty meter kick despite facing a gale force wind with just two minutes remaining in the half.
The Walsall players and coaches would have been satisfied with just a three point deficit at half time. Conditions, however, improved for the rest of the game. Although there was still a strong breeze, it remained mostly dry with even an occasional glimpse of the sun! They then had the ideal start with their first attack of the half. The forwards through, Benson,Weaver,Dickson and Gozukucuk made good carries. While fly half Hennessey was quick to link with Rob Angell and Nico Watkins in midfield. The series of attacks eventually saw the visitors being penalised for an offside infringement. Once again Weston was on target with his twenty meter kick.
Unfortunately, the hosts failed to secure good field positions and opportunities were restricted during the next fifteen minutes. Eventually, Spartans were penalised for yet another offside violation. Hennessey placed a well struck kick towards the corner flag. Lockett gained the lineout possession and the home pack made several drives before releasing the ball. The home backs ran well, but the quick ball from the breakdown was stopped illegally and Weston had no problems with the twenty-meter kick. This gave the hosts a one point lead with fifteen minutes left to play. Try scoring opportunities were very limited for both teams and it was unfortunate that a moment of misjudgement gave the visitors a penalty and a chance to gain a position close to the Walsall try line. This resulted in a long period of pressure with Walsall being penalised and the visitors opting to maintain the pressure rather than try and kick the penalty. Although the Walsall forwards were defending well with some excellent counter drives, the referee decided that prop forward Simon Weaver was in an illegal position and was shown a yellow card. Even playing with a reduced number Walsall continued to repel the Spartans forward drives. But after several near efforts it was decided that No8 Mike Foulds had got himself over the line. Hardy then put over the difficult conversion which meant that the hosts needed a try to win with four minutes left to play. During this period, it was the visitors that had to do all the defending. They were however being penalised for their indiscretions. It was an unsatisfactory finish, however, as the referee failed to allow any advantage to Walsall from another penalty and decided to blow the final whistle.