Trentham v Walsall, 24th November 2013
The relatively low score does not tell the whole story of this enthralling encounter.
Maybe the Walsall players were still thinking about last week's walk in the park at Willenhall when they allowed Trentham to score a breakaway try in the first minute but this only served to spark Walsall into life. Yet again they dominated the scrum, irrespective of whose ball it was and the line-out went the same way. Our boys had identified that Trentham's tempo and main threat came from their side-stepping scrum-half but efficient tackling from his opposite number George Allbright and number 8 Joe Pearce soon meant Trentham had to try and come up with another way to break through.
Our front row of Jamie Mallaband, James Rogers and Cory Clarke-Selby soon got the better of taller opponents, getting the nudge on at each put-in, giving our strike runners of James Marris, Ben Stackhouse and Alex Butler the chance to do their thing and they breached the gain line time after time. After several powerful drives from the forwards, Harry Bucknall danced and span his way through to level the scores. After yet another steal from the line-out, this time from Zak Somani, Harry's fellow wing Jake Mooney wanted to get in on the act too and drove the Trentham defensive line back with a strong carry and his excellent presentation of the ball from the bottom of a ruck sparked a blind-side move finished off with birthday-boy Cory scoring in the corner.
Walsall heads temporarily dropped when the Trentham scrum-half kicked clear whilst under pressure and they were fortunate to be awarded a try completely against the run of play when their centre was ruled to have got his hand first to a bouncing ball. You could sense Trentham thought they were back in it as they laid siege to the Walsall line but our boys were having none of it and successfully held up two scoring attempts and tackled their hearts out to keep the scores level. In fact, Trentham had very few chances to score all morning which shows how far Walsall have come in the past year or so.
Determined to retake the lead, Alex Garton picked up on halfway and, despite calls to get the ball wide, managed to twist and squirm his way through to get the ball down just before being dragged into touch. With Walsall now leading, they were unlucky to lose Daniel Gilbert to a neck injury and he was a big miss in the pack. However, Alex stepped in to help out so with a re-jigged scrum Walsall kept up their attacks and Ben Pitt set off from deep, side-stepping defenders on the right wing before setting off on a mazy run to the opposite corner to dot down and put Walsall two scores clear.
In the dying moments of the game, Trentham's succession of penalties only a matter of metres from the Walsall line had most spectators - and probably some players - thinking a score would soon come. Not Ted Parsons. He saw off each of Trentham's heaviest and strongest players with a display of ferocious tackling not often seen at this level and as the final whistle blew he was rightly mobbed by his jubilant team-mates as they celebrated winning a very hard fought match.
Matchday Squad: (Forwards) James Rogers (Capt) Joe Pearce, Zak Somani, Cory Clarke-Selby, Jamie Mallaband, Daniel Gilbert ; (Backs) George Allbright, Ben Pitt, Ben Stackhouse, Ted Parsons, Alex Garton, Jake Mooney, James Marris, Harry Bucknall, Alex Butler