Lions fantastic away form finally halted
Cannock travelled a short distance to Handsworth knowing that the home team had been struggling of late and that away form had been the Lions saving grace so far this season.
With several first team players unavailable and key positions being filled there was an air of uncertainty as to how the next 80 minutes would pan out. The warm up was as crisp as the air temperature and Vice Captain turned Captain Frost won the toss (Tales for Wales never fails) and elected to play up the hill first half.
The kick off was loose and Handsworth went straight on the attack testing the metal of all Cannock players. Some yards were made but several knock on’s and unavailable balls from the home side meant each attack was snuffed out and scrum time ensued. Bread and butter for the front row of Lathe, Cummins and Parsons who were at ease all afternoon with the solid engine room of Barrett and Brookes behind. Handsworth took their scrappy ball and continued to attack but after 10 minutes had still not managed to penetrate Cannock’s defence. The Lions knew that the longer they held out the better their chances down the hill in the second half.
Pressure finally told though, despite clearing their lines with Pedley’s touch finding and break outs from Frost, Baugh and Freeman, Handsworth found a gap between the defence and went over for the lead. 7-0 converted.
It was time for Cannock to try and get some much needed possession, pressure form the chasers on the kick off meant the ball was slow for Handsworth, turn over at the next ruck meant ball for Cannock. Despite knowing that turnover ball is great for attacking the ball was kicked and a brief aerial battle ensued with fullback Palmer putting some Gary Owen's up. This finished with the ball eventually being fumbled out from a Cannock hand 30 metres out.
A clean line out and the ball spread wide and several slipped tackles meant Handsowrth went over in the far corner 14-0 converted.
With 15 minutes to go, Cannock again pressured the kick off and turned ball over well, some hard carries from Humphreys, Blake and Whitmell in the mid field made good headway into the opposition half. With Humphiries in need of a brief spell on the side lines with a dead leg, coach Halil got into the action to with a break and good hands out wide to Whitmell, a quick pop to the flying Blake but ball lost forward.
Handsworth cleared their lines and it was time to see if work at training would pay on for the line out. Arrows straight and true from Cummins, collected by Freeman and the maul marching on. Illegally taken down and enough for the watchful official to send a forward to the bin. SCRUM please Sir, why not it had been functioning flawlessly so far. Pressure told and another penalty, SCRUM please Sir. Fisty cuffs as Lathe took a few swinging punches from the opposition flanker, right in front of the referee, two in the bin. With the scrum going a third time and Handsworth falling apart surely a penalty try was needed but it didn’t come and Cannock had to do it the old fashioned way. Ball out from the scrum and several phases later Freeman spotted a lack of guards at the ruck and cruised over for a try.
Incredibly a third Handsworth player politely informed the official that he fancied a rest before half time and the half ended 14-7.
With three in the bin it was all about control and moving the ball, something Cannock should by now be perfect at. However from the kick off, Handsworth moved wide and made yards, they scored far too easily and a wake up call for the Lions. 21-7
The next five minutes were punishing, Handsowrth scored two more tries through the lackluster defence and the team knew this was not good enough. Now with the score at 33-7 Cannock had nothing to lose, a tap back from Freeman at the kick off and hands from Brookes to Frost then unleashed the backs. Quick yards were gained and Murrell fished the ball out quickly to try and make use of an overlap, hands out wide and it was Clarke who made the overlap and dotted in the corner. 33-12.
Cannock were re-energised, the lineout secured ball deep in Handsworth half and maul powered towards the line. Madsen spotted the gap and dove over the line for another easy try 33-17.
Cannock were not out of time yet but an offside, a not rolling away and back chat to the official killed any chance of getting the score closer. Handsowrth slotted a couple of penalties to make it 39-17.
With only on try needed for a bonus point the team set about going for one more big push. A scrum 22m out drove forwards and penalyty given….posts cried Coach, huh? Thought Frost. Scrum please Sir. The front row were powerful with Madsen adding his fresher legs to the shove…..enough thought the referee and up went the arm under the posts. Penalty try given and a scuffed drop kick attempt from Freeman brought the end of a rollercoaster of a game.
The truth is Cannock were in this games until 5 minutes ruined any chances. Set piece meant good solid ball this week but small errors and defensive passion need to be priorities at training.
See you there Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7pm to prepare for our next adventure.
Man of the Match went to stand in scrum half Steve Murrell for a performance that was as solid and skillfull as we needed. Special mentions to Jim Cummins for his arrows, Clarkey and Danny P for stepping up again when called upon.