Coaches ring the changes
On a cold and wet Sunday morning, it was a new look Walsall side that met Wolverhampton for a much anticipated League meeting.
Unfortunately, due to exceptional circumstances, only 14 players were available to take to the field for Walsall. Still, the lads were well up for it. This was the first game since Christmas, so there was always going to be a bit of rustiness.
Anyway, Wolverhampton came with their A game and scored two early Tries, one converted. 12-0 after 15 minutes. This was not looking good! At this point the coaches read the riot act to the lads and got the response they wanted. First tackles were solid, our possession play was efficient and well supported. Then poor old Ali took a hit to the shoulder and had to come off! 13 players left. But amazingly, it was all Walsall as the half drew to a close... trying, but failing to get over the line. Half time 12-0.
Walsall finally got on the scoreboard early into the second half when pressure on the Wolverhampton defence forced a penalty. Zach Edwards slotted over the kick. Score 12-3. Just like the first half, Wolverhampton then scored two Tries in quick succession. This wasn't due to bad play by Walsall, it was just that with only 13 players on the park we ran out of numbers to defend after multiple phases of attack by Wolverhampton.
It left the score 26-3 with still 20 minutes left to play. From this point on however, it was going to be all Walsall!
It's amazing how 13 lads can battle so hard for each other in the face of defeat, but this new look team will go far with this attitude. No show boaters, no primadonnas thinking that they are doing all the work...Just a genuine group of lads working selflessly for one another.
Walsall seemed to be camped on the Wolverhampton 5 metre line for the rest of the game, without being able to break through. All our Forwards were rucking and mauling with great enthusiasm. Stand up Attar Singh, Karl Pothecary, Nathan Neale, Callum Wilding, Ben Fortes-Mayer, Rory Kennedy and captain Tom Aston. All our Backs were running great lines and supporting each other. Take a bow Chad Fellows, Tom Olivo, Sol Clarke, Jay Matthews, Nico Singh and Zach Edwards.
At this point, two Wolverhampton parents commented that (a) they hadn't realised that we were playing with only 13 lads, and (b) we were playing with a team spirit rarely seen in junior rugby.
So, Nico nearly crossed the line several times, Callum nearly crossed the line, Tom Aston nearly crossed the line, all to no avail. But with the last play of the game, from a good rucking position, Zach took possession of the ball and waited for Tom Aston to loop round to the blind side at speed before passing it to him. Tom drew in two defenders then passed out to the side where Tom Olivo took possession, with still a lot of work to do Tom Olivo finally and deservedly made it across the line in the corner for a morale boosting Try for Walsall. Zach Edwards had a difficult conversion attempt right on the touch line and hit the post with the last kick of the game. CLANG, final score Wolverhampton 26-8 Walsall.
A very tired bunch of lads at the end of the game. Who knows what we could have done with 15 players! A great game to watch. Everyone enjoyed it, from sofisticated city types, to simple country folk!
Roll on Trentham, roll on 15 players. Get well quick Ali!