Plate semi-final at Newcastle
Our boys march on!
Someone mentioned that it rained yesterday morning but, to be honest, I don’t think any of the coaches or parents would have noticed, so enthralled were they in watching their boys put another team to the sword. In conditions like this the players could have been forgiven for not quite being up for the fight, or wanting to run like bulls into the opposition or having the confidence to move the ball when it was on. But they did all this and much, much more.
From going behind to an early score from one of Newcastle’s enormous forwards, Walsall just executed the basics well: a couple of drives from the forwards, ball through the hands of the backs and Harry Bucknall goes over in the corner to equalise (forgive me boys for making it sound so simple but recently you have made this game of ours look very easy). Newcastle came back at us immediately and it looked for all the world as if their outside centre was away and heading for our posts, but he hadn't counted on James Marris putting in a last-ditch tackle of which Mike Brown would have been proud.
From a scruffy line-out in their 22, Ben Pitt dropped a grubber kick through for Matt Howell to chase and his sheer belligerence and determination saw him beat the covering defence to put Walsall into the lead. Harry extended this lead soon after, firing up the after-burners and out-sprinting the covering defence to score under the posts after yet another dominant scrummaging effort from our front row (a theme prevalent throughout the match). After clever running and a great pass from Ben Stackhouse, the ball went wide to Kieran Higgins and he was so unlucky not to score his first try for Walsall as he was bundled into touch barely a metre out. Although the resulting line-out almost went straight to the Newcastle scrum-half, our boys didn’t switch off and Jamie Mallaband charged through to throw himself on the loose ball for a great poacher’s try.
Newcastle came back thanks to some slack tackling in our defensive line, again letting through one of their huge ball-carriers but our boys seems to be made of much sterner stuff than they were in the darker, pre-Christmas days and not one single head dropped as half time came.
Thanks to pretty grim conditions and Walsall’s refusal to budge, the second half was played almost entirely in the opposition’s half. Tricky handling meant our pack were kept busy and Joe Pearce, after picking up from the back of a scrum on the Newcastle 5m line, side-stepped the covering defence before diving over the line to score. Shortly after, some really impressive passing from backs and forwards alike put Alex Garton in space and he ran around the narrow defensive line to chalk up the final points of the morning.
Massive congratulations and thanks to all our boys for their efforts who truly deserve their place in next month’s County Plate final.
Match day squad: Forwards: Cory Clarke-Selby, Jamie Mallaband, James Rogers, Matthew Howell, Jake Mooney, Daniel Gilbert, Ted Parsons, Joe Pearce (Capt); Backs: George Allbright, Sam Wellings, Ben Pitt, Alex Garton, Ben Stackhouse, Kieran Higgins, Alex Butler, Harry Bucknall, James Marris