Cannock welcomed their local rivals Willenhall to the Morgan Ground for the second game of 2017. Cannock started off the year with promise by only just missing out on a win to 2nd in the league Burntwood, they knew this was a must win match to secure their mid table spot.
Willenhall Started off the match attacking up the slope, the apprehensive visitors kicked off with the ball landing in to the hands of Craig Richards (Lump) who charged it up the pitched a good 10 meters with the Willenhall players hanging off him like a pair of Pat Butchers earrings. Excellent Work by the pack cleared out the Willenhall players and allowed Stephen Frost, the new 9 to ship the ball out to Andy Lawson who got snagged by his opposite number. Fortunately some illegal rucking by the visitors allowed Cannock to take a shot at the post, Scott Pedley stepped up to kick but the wind didn't allow the 3 points.
Willenhall knew they were in for a hard game as Cannock were playing at such a pace it was hard for the visitors to keep up. From the restart Dave Lovell collected and smashed in to the opposition like a wrecking ball, a few quick phase and good hands from the forwards allowed Jon Freeman (Soccer) to break the line and cause disruptions for Willenhall, unfortunately a silly knock on and possession was turned over, scrum down!! Cannock Fielding one of its heaviest packs this season meant Willenhall were under tremendous pressure but managed to get the ball to their No. 8 who picked and went but only to get flatten by Halil Gozukucuk and spilt the ball forward. Scrum down again inside the visitors 22, quick ball to Soccer at 8 who offloaded to Frosty, which a cheeky show and go slipped through the gap and slotted down the first try of the game.
Willenhall heads were hanging low and Cannock proceeded to pile on the pressure, quick ball from the restart managed to unleash the backs, Scott Pedley with great hands off loaded to the impressive on form Josh Humpherys who smashed it in to his opposite number making him fully aware what his was up against. Incredible work from Joe brookes and the missed Kris Hampton cleared out the Willenhall players like a pair of Sherman Tanks. BOOM! Quick ball through the hands again saw James Cummins (Fist) linking up with his prop Jay Barrett to burst through the middle of the park, good rucking from the backs and a cheeky pass to Joe Brookes who is having a fantastic season burst through the Willenhall defence like knife through butter and made a 40 metre dash towards the line. Unaware of his surroundings Joe thought he was going to get snagged just before the line and offloaded a beautiful pass to the scoring machine Humphreys, try scored.
Cannock were in high spirits but knew they still had work to do. Lions’ fly half Scott Pedley used some tactical territorial kicks to allow Cannock to establish a foothold and build momentum and solid lineouts from Cummins found Freeman and Frost without fault and the pressure continued to build. Another linout but lost allowed Willenhall to attack and piece together a good set of phases and put Cannock under pressure for the first time in the game, good tackles by Daniel Blake (Tank), Ian Whitmell and the returning Nick Plaket kept the pressure off. Cannock scrums was dominated by the front row and second row power, which allowed Freeman to pick up and skilfully swerve past a number of defenders to and off load to Halil who make a great break down the middle of the park and did the old ally oop basketball pass to frosty who got tackled in the 22. Cannock saw out the majority of the first half in Willenhall's half but were unable to convert pressure as handling errors and wayward passes halted a number of promising attacks.
Cannock responded quickly in the second half and further solid lineouts allowed Frosty to feed Army Dave and Kris Hampton who gained yards through the middle of the park. Willenhall were again peddling back as strong runs from Jay Barrett, Fist and Lump added further menace in tight quarters. It was close phase ball from the forwards which dealt the devastating blow as Frost
delicately offloaded to the supporting Freeman who did a show and go, went through the gap and offloaded to Josh who put Tank in to space who was surely in for his first try of his first team career, but only to get tackled on the line. Good rucking by fist and Brookes playing 9 picked and went over the line to score a perfect team try, don't worry Tank it's coming!! . S Pedley easily converted to nudge Cannock ahead
Frustrations Started to settle in for Willenhall and some bad language by the No.8 and back chatting seen the red card come out of the refs pocket. Cannock knew this was there opportunity to close the game out and get that vital bonus point, however Willenhall dug deep and were handed a chance to immediately establish a score as a fumbled catch from Cannock gave them a scrum in the Cannock 22. After immense pressure from the visitors and a few scrums later Cannock saw Craig Richards leaving the park with a yellow card. Once again Willenhall opted for the scrum and the No 8. set up a rolling maul but only to be collapsed, unfortunately Halil was in the firing line, the ref had no option but to show a yellow card!! Cannock down to 13 men now and knew they were going to be under pressure. Another Scrum with Danny Parson stepping in for the sinned binned Lump, and Willenhall broke again, great defence from Cannock stopped them from crossing the line, outstanding work by Soccer to turn over the ball and shipped to the ball to Danny P who when for the kick clearance only to completely miss the ball and a Willenhall player dived on it to score a simple try.
The Willenhall players were handed a glimpse of hope from scoring that try, however a couple of minutes of possession in Cannock’s half led to a Willenhalls penalty for repeated off-side offences and Willenhalls 10 went for the linout. Lost ball in the line out allowed Army Dave to charge up the pitch and give one of the rudest handoffs this season, he put his opposite number about 6ft in air and berried him about 6ft in the ground, what a hit!!
The remaining 15 minutes of the game were largely dominated by Cannock. Wingers Blake and Dan Clarke ensured Willenhall's backs had a hard time defending and an improved support game from the Phill Pedley, Frost and Barrett helped pile on the pressure, great work from Humphreys and Lawson kept Cannock’s defence solid for the day. Struggling to deal with the pace of the game, Willenhall continued to find their way into the referee’s bad books and countless high tackles, offsides and infringements at the break down resulted in a penalty in front of the post. Captain Frost instructed Pedley to slots the points
Final Score 23-5
The victory was sealed with a sharp defensive from Cannock, the back line forced a spilt ball from Willenhall all day and the forwards just broke them down in the scrums and the rucks, a massive performance by Cannock today and a great win.
Number 4 Joe Brookes was awarded Man of the Match for his work rate, great tackling and darting runs. Cannock will now go in to next week feeling strong for the home game against Clee Hill.
Dick of the Day went to Danny Parsons who needs to work on his hand eye co-ordination, :)
Training is on Tuesday and Thursday at the Morgan ground, thank you to all our sponsors Wakelake, NMB and DGL