Willenhall’s 34-12 win over Handsworth did not have the multiple phases of previous weeks but showed the raw power of its forwards in this 6 try victory.
Photograph: Lee Walton - Powerful running results in a brace of tries
A score by Handsworth within 2 minutes of the kick off showed their ability to break tackles and run strongly. Playing down the slope the home team spilled the ball from the kick off and Handsworth’s nippy scrum half broke blind at the resulting scrum. From the ruck their strong running centre broke several tackles to go over under the posts for a 7-0 lead. Willenhall replied immediately with prop Josh Clewley, taking the restart at a gallop taking play to the attacking 22. Handsworth were penalised for early engagement at the scrum and Lee Walton took the quick tap to crash over from 15m. Captain Russ Troman pulled the conversion wide leaving the score 5-7 to Handsworth after only 6 minutes. Willenhall put several phases together to pressurise the visitors again with forwards Ali Rogers, Clewley, Paul Smith and Walton carrying strongly and centres Sean McMahon and Tom Thorley slicing through the middle. Handsworth’s scrum half made another dangerous break and Matt Jelfs and Andy Alexander had to scramble back to tackle. Willenhall’s young scrum half Charlie McGinty turned the ball over at the ruck and almost won his own kick chase over Handsworth’s advancing backs. The home side lifted their game to score an excellent team try on 20 minutes. From a midfield scrum fly half Troman moved the ball to the left with McMahon and Alexander combining to threaten Handsworth’s backs. Rogers, Clewley and Mike Fergus supported to inter pass and take play forward. Troman moved the ball back to the open side and Thorley fed second row Paul Smith through the gap. Smith and full back Gavin Troman inter passed to put the veteran forward over from 10m. Russ Troman converted give Willenhall the lead at 12-7 but Gavin was injured in the movement and had to be replaced by Danny Hynes. Willenhall were now beginning to get into their stride and Smith took a good line out catch on half way. The forwards drove and Walton rolled round the short side to stride along the right touchline. Hooker Rob Loach supported and took the off load to maintain the attack. Rogers carried the ball on forcing the visitors to concede a penalty which Troman kicked into the corner. The resulting line out was untidy and Handsworth were awarded a scrum but as the ball shot out it was McGinty who reacted quickly to pounce on the ball for his first senior try. Troman converted to extend the lead to 19-7. Both sides had agreed roll on/roll off subs so Mark Reece replaced Clewley and Chris Boden replaced McGinty with 10 minutes to play in the half. Rogers athletically plucked the restart out of the air and cut through the opposition pack to get good field position again. Matt Jelfs moved to scrum half and immediately used Hynes on the short side from a scrum to set up the next play. The home side were still not putting phases together with any consistency but their forwards were making serious inroads into Handsworth territory. However failure to support and clean out rucks effectively made producing quality ball for the next phase difficult.
Half Time: Willenhall 19 Handsworth 7
Willenhall immediately went on the offensive from the kick off with a good kick chase. Fergus carried into the 22 and the forwards mauled to within 10m of the try line. James Samuel broke close on the short side, getting over the line but not able to ground the ball. A poor clearance kick by the visitors was fielded by Hynes on the right and the winger left defenders in his wake as he stepped to within 10m of the line before being tackled into touch. Smith stole the line out and Walton smashed his way to the line only to be held up, Rogers tried a pick and go but it was Walton who would not be denied his second try, carrying several would be tacklers over with him in his 3m drive for the line. With the lead now 24 points to 7 Smith took a deep restart kick and fed Hynes who again showed his pace over 15m stepping past several defenders. A well timed pass to Walton on the right had the Handsworth defence braced for another crunching run but an off load to Jelfs spared the visitors more bruises and the scrum half used the space to put together a promising attack. Handsworth again kicked poorly and Hynes made them pay with a mazy counter to the attacking 22. Fergus and Jelfs combined on the blind side of a scrummage setting the elusive winger away yet again and this time the forwards produced good quality second phase possession for prop Samuel to drive over from short range. 29-7 to Willenhall.
With Willenhall looking to run from every possession, it was Boden who caught the restart and launch the next attack. The back rower fed Smith and the forwards handled expertly with Loach cutting through the defence to the halfway. Excellent rucking produced quick ball and Clewley fed Walton who again broke a tackle and used his off loading skills to put the ball inside to send Fergus striding towards the posts. Jelfs raced up in support but put the try scoring pass down within 15m of the line. Handsworth replied with a turn over and the centre ran strongly to score his second try from 30m bringing the score back to 29-12. However it was Willenhall who completed the scoring with Andy Alexander hitting a great line and racing 35m to within 10m of the line. The forwards drove on and Fergus finished the scoring as he burst over from 10m.
Final Score: Willenhall 34 Handsworth 12