Walsall Win on a Memorable Day
By Arnie Evans
Walsall 33 Crewe & Nantwich 10
Last Saturday was a historic day at Delves Road, as the team played their very first match on the new 4G pitch. The afternoon started in a rather sombre mood as the players and spectators paid tribute to Caleb Tillott. A former club secretary and Walsall stalwart who recently passed away.
The hosts started strongly and showed some good running and support skills on the new surface. No8 Hal Gozukucuk produced some strong runs which could have resulted in scores. Unfortunately, he was unable to link up with his supporting players. The visitors, who narrowly failed to get promotion last season, soon showed their attacking potential. A wayward Walsall kick allowed them to set up a counter attack. The Walsall defence managed to stop the initial threat. But from the resulting scrum, the Cheshire team took the lead. They displayed some good running and passing skills which resulted in winger Eliot Meredith racing over for a try near the corner flag. However, within minutes, the hosts reduced the deficit. Teenager, George Perkins
, chased the restart and put pressure on the opposition. The rest of the Walsall forwards supported well and forced the visitors to conceded a penalty. This gave another teenager, Will Hennessey, the opportunity to display his place kicking skills. He put over the thirty meter kick, and five minutes later repeated the feat after an illegal block by an opponent. Thirty minutes had been played in a game which was proving to be a fairly even contest. The hosts were pressing and looking to add to their one point advantage when the game was stopped as a result of an injury to Joe Telfer. The young Crewe & Nantwich player sustained a serious leg injury which resulted in a fifty minute stoppage. It was reassuring to see a photo of Joe smiling in his hospital bed later in the day. The final ten minutes of the half only saw one more score as Hennessey put over one of his best kicks of the day,a forty meter effort from the touchline and into the breeze.
The second half saw the hosts take more control of the game, although their opponents dominated the lineout possession throughout the match. Seven minutes after the restart, Walsall scored their first try of the leagues season. It was captain, Roger Weston
, that gathered a kick ahead by hooker Pittaway and dived over near the corner flag. Another super Hennessey kick gave his team a 16 – 5 advantage. Scrum half Dean Ainger
was involved in the chase that led to this latest score. Four minutes later he was the try scorer after Perkins challenged the opposition lineout throw and the scrum half soon pounced on the loose ball and darted over from ten yards. Once again Hennessey was on target with the conversion. As the game entered the final quarter the visitors began to put together some good phases of play. Walsall defended well with Mike Benson, Matt James
, Simon Weaver
and Nico Watkins
making several attack stopping tackles. But the visitors retained possession until, hooker Woodward, capped an impressive display, with a try. Walsall finished the game strongly with Hennessey adding a penalty after the visitors failed to legally defend a strong Walsall scrum. The final score saw Hennessey and Weston link together well before putting winger Brandon Sayce
away to score his first try for Walsall, in what was only his second league game. Hennessey’s well struck conversion gave him a match total of eighteen points. Unfortunately, his team failed to apply more pressure late in the game which could have secured them a try scoring bonus point.