The Greens conceded a last minute try to lose a game they really should have won against an enterprising but predictable Lichfield fifteen. On a bright and breezy day the Greens were looking to build upon the promising performance of the previous week.
Lichfield play an open and expansive game and the early exchanges typified their approach. The play was frantic, loose and at times lacking composure, which resulted in both sides committing handling errors and conceding turnovers.
After just 7 minutes Ash Dibden suffered a head wound and was temporarily replaced by Ollie Passmore. Poor defensive alignment resulted the Lichfield centre breaking through the midfield to offload to his fellow centre Maxwell-Keys who strolled in for an easy try, converted by fly-half Massey for a seven point lead after 11 mins.
At scrum time the Greens quickly asserted their superiority but were not justly rewarded for their dominance. The Greens continued to play an open game, often switching play, but at times the ball carrier became isolated which resulted in turnovers, much to the relief of the visitors.
Quickly taken penalties as a result of visitor infringement failed to breach their defence and yet another turnover allowed Lichfield to clear their lines. On 21 mins. a failed clearance kick was gathered by the Lichfield full back who surged forward and took advantage of some poor tackling to score a try converted by Massey to establish a 14 point lead.The scoreline did not reflect the Greens contribution to the game and stung by this latest score they took the game to their opponents with a number of surges to their line looking for their first score.
Sadly the only reward for their efforts was a penalty on 21 mins. converted by Steve Johnson when in truth Lichfield should have been penalised more harshly for preventing play at the breakdown.
From 14-3 down, on 27 mins., the Greens were awarded a penalty for offside some 35 metres from goal. Johnson pulled the kick wide when on reflection a kick to the corner might have been a more productive option.
The Greens continued to put their opponents under pressure with some enterprising rugby and looked to have scored a try in the corner, which was ruled out for a forward pass. Pressure from the Greens resulted in a number of scrummages on the 5 metre line. The opposition were put under enormous pressure and a penalty try should have been awarded to the Greens but the only action taken by the referee was to award a yellow card, for persistent offence, to the Lichfield prop Lasis. The momentum was now with the Greens and strong incisive running by forwards and backs resulted in a try for Ollie Wood to give a half time score of 8-14.
No.18 Wooton replaced no.6 Abel at half time for Lichfield and Lasis returned from his spell on the touchline. The Greens started the second half full of ambition and intent but unforced handling errors at the base and from a tapped penalty caused much frustration, and the game reached a situation of stalemate until 17 mins. into the second half when the Greens were awarded a penalty for a Lichfield hand in the ruck. Again the kick went wide. Bournes replaced Si Weller at this stage of the game. Lichfield after being under pressure for long periods ventured into the Greens 22 and were awarded a penalty
which they took quickly but were denied progress by Johnson not being 10 metres. Johnson received a yellow card for his troubles. Lichfield chose to kick to touch and from the second resultant catch and drive scored a try on 65 mins. which went unconverted to establish a lead of 19-8. The Greens responded in positive fashion and following a number of scrummages some 30 metres out from the Lichfield line were awarded a penalty, which was kicked to the corner. From a number of scrums and forward surges the Greens were finally awarded a penalty try duly converted by Ash Dibden, to bring the score to 19-15 to the visitors. From the restart the Greens scored a scintillating try. James Dyson gathered the ball and made a decisive break and passed on to Ash Dibden who continued the move and found Tom Hughes following up to score. The conversion was missed but for the first time the Greens found themselves in the lead by 20-15 with some seven minutes remaining. Donk replaced Probert for the remaining minutes. Attack was the order of the day and the Greens should have fully secured the win when from a catch and drive they powered over the line only for the ball to be dropped when scoring was easier. This proved to be costly because with the last move of the game Lichfield, against the run of play, scored a further try in the corner, to eventually run out 24-20 winners. The Greens had to reluctantly settle for a losing bonus point. Oli Wood was rightly awarded man of the match but there were also eye catching performances from the front row, Tom Hughes, Ash Dibden and James Dyson. Games are won and lost at times by small margins and this has certainly been the case for the Greens. A match at Hinckley they could have won and a match this week they should have won!
The body language from the home side emphasised their frustration and disappointment, with the “one that got away” but there was much promise in this encounter that they can take into their game at Longton next week, looking to register their first overdue win of the season.