2nd XV - Report
|Willenhall 2nds||37||vs||19||Stafford Development|
Willenhall beat weakened Stafford 2nds in disrupted game.
After last weeks excellent home win against Bridgnorth, Russ Troman’s 2nd XV arrived early and prepared well for their Merit game against top of the table Stafford.
However Stafford’s late arrival and the fact that they were missing a several players was not apparent until the home team were on the pitch preparing for kick off. The start was delayed until 3-15pm and the players tried to stay focussed playing “touch” but when the game kicked off with Stafford down to 13 players Willenhall were not in the right frame of mind to expose the visitors lack of numbers. Playing with a strong breeze behind them, Stafford started strongly and their loose head returned the kick off 30m. From the resulting ruck their fly half used the wind well to put the ball into the corner - an early warning that the visitors were not going to lie down and be beaten. A knock on gave Willenhall a defensive scrum and number 8 Brownbill fed Troman on the short side for the scrum half to kick up the short side with winger Junior Allen putting a good kick chase. Brownbill again latched onto the ball from a long clearance kick by the visitors and countered strongly. Josh Clewley ran off the ruck on halfway and with Brown and Peach clearing out well the fast ball was moved wide to fly half Barker. Centres Andy Jones and Ant Helm handled crisply and Helm gave Sam Johnson the overlap 45m out and the young winger finished by stepping his man and racing over to open the scoring. Stafford again used the wind to put Willenhall on the back foot and as debutant full back James Allen attempted to run clear under pressure, he turned his ankle and had to be replaced by another debutant Mark Harris. A chip in midfield by Barker allowed Jones and Helm to put pressure on and the opposition full back was penalised for not releasing. Troman put the kick into the left corner but an over throw at the line out gave Stafford the ball back. The visitors were playing with aggression and skill, taking ball on strongly and staying up in the tackle to off load whereas Willenhall were failing to show the structure and control which brought them their try. Trying to move the ball early and score long distance tries from first phase resulted in numerous handling errors and Stafford punished them by driving runs and long clearances. On 25 mins however Willenhall extended the lead to 10-0. Brownbill, Troman and Junior made inroads on the blind side of a scrum, Husband, Peach and Clewley continued the drive and, as Stafford covered the open side James Samuel drove over from 5m for an unconverted try. Stafford continued to try to play expansive rugby and they pulled 7 points back on 32 mins as their loose head stepped through two weak tackles and sprinted 40m to the posts to bring the score back to 10-7. The home team began to concede penalties and with the wind strengthening, were pinned in their own 22. Stafford took the lead with a quick tap and their right wing rounded his opposite number to score in the corner. 10-12 to Stafford. Willenhall tried to put more structure into their game with Husband, Brownbill, Samuel and Moore taking the ball on but excellent defence by Stafford and Willenhall’s anxiety combined to keep the score 10-12 at half time.
Rob Cowley came on at prop with Samuel moving to centre and Fergus replaced Moore at half time.
Stafford restarted the second half and Husband took the ball on the run to put Willenhall on the front foot. Brownbill took the second rowers short pass and kicked ahead only to be obstructed in the kick chase. Troman put the penalty over to restore the lead for Willenhall at 13-12. The home side looked far more comfortable in the short spell after half time and Junior took the restart on the full. Good hands from Jones, Matt Jelfs and Husband gained excellent field position for Willenhall in the Stafford 22. The forwards carried and rucked more effectively and Barker, Jones and Samuel moved the ball crisply to give Junior the chance to go for the corner but he was tackled 5m short. The pressure was building on Stafford and Troman quickly switched the ball left for Barker and Jones to combine again to give Ant Helm the opportunity to step his opposition and cross from 10m out making the score 18-12 to Willenhall on 48 mins. Ben Jelfs replaced Josh Brown at prop and with Willenhall’s forwards now dominating the scrums the home team were using the wind camp in Stafford’s 22. Fergus used his strength to break the tackle line and from the ruck Barker sent Clewley galloping up the short side. The second rower had Helm outside him but threw the dummy to break clear only to be tackled on the 22. Matt Jelfs took a clean line out and Brownbill kicked long for Johnson and Jones to force the Stafford full back to spill the ball. The visiting winger could only fly hack the ball dead to give Willenhall a 5m scrum. Troman called for the push over and as the pack advanced Stafford threw 2 players in at the number 8’s feet – obvious penalty try and possible sin bin but the referee’s decision was penalty. Willenhall reset the scrum and were penalised for an early shunt. Stafford cleared the line but Willenhall came steaming back and inevitably the visitors ran out of numbers as they moved the ball to the left. Barker fed Helm and the winger beat his man and off loaded back inside to put Barker over under the posts. Troman converted to extend the lead to 25-12. Samuel and Jones kept the pressure on the Stafford midfield as the visitors tried to move the ball wide and Fergud scooped up the loose ballot drive back into Stafford’s half. With Stafford under increasing pressure they began conceding penalties and Barker took a quick tap to step through a gap on half way and feed Jones who committed the full back and popped to Fergus to score under the posts. Troman knocked over the conversion to take the lead out to 32 points to 12. Stafford did not give up and came back with strong drives to score a 7 pointer under the posts but it was Willenhall who scored the last points of the game. Troman put a 50m penalty into the corner and Husband took a clean catch. The forwards drove on and Ben Jelfs sneaked round the edge of the maul to crash over. Final score 37 points to 19.
A pleasing second win on the trot with the side strengthening every week but Stafford showed their mettle and will be a force to be reckoned with in the return fixture.
The 2nd’s will need to be more structured and patient in their play if they are going to continue to improve and achieve their potential in the Staffs 2nd Team League.
Well done – Stoke 2nds next week.