Action from their win over Upton on Severn
Midlands 3 West (South)
Rugby St Andrews 24
Upton on Severn 17
Saints made it three wins in a row but were way below their best in an error strewn game against Upton on Severn, who had only a single win to their credit and languish in the relegation zone.
As usual there were changes from the previous Saturday with Dan Hull, Tom Helliwell and Kieron Waldron unavailable, giving valuable playing time to Matt Butlin and Flinty Lister who were returning from injury.
Conditions were perfect for Saints’ preferred fluid game but, on this occasion, their skill levels were well below the required standards for such ambitions.
Early errors enabled Upton to monopolise possession for the first 15 minutes. Saints remained calm and disciplined as play was concentrated in the midfield and they then began to string some phases together, forcing a line out 5 metres out. The throw was errant but snaffled by Grant Taylor who made ground before handing to Matt Butlin to score. Ryan Taylor converted and for the rest of the half the visitors were penned in their own territory.
A second score had an element of fortune. Another promising attack was halted by a knock-on but advantage was played and Upton cleared towards touch on halfway. A steepling return kick was not controlled by the visiting wing and Liam Clynes was on hand to touch down. Ryan Taylor converted superbly from the touchline but then narrowly missed a couple of much easier shots as Upton’s defenders conceded a string of penalties to keep their line intact.
The issue of a yellow card was inevitable but even then Saints were unable to drive home their advantage and with just a 14-point lead at the interval the door was still ajar for the visitors.
Upton changed tactics after the break, playing a close driving game through their big ball carriers and kicking for position. This paid dividends immediately as they put over a simple penalty and, shortly after, a converted try from a powerful forward carry from 5 metres. Worse followed when Kristen Ennifer was yellow carded.
Clearly fired up they kicked a penalty for an attacking line out, where Saints’ defence opened like the Red Sea for the Upton flanker to stroll over. The conversion was added and Saints now trailed 17-14 with just 15 minutes to play.
This was a wake up call and a sweeping move took Saints back on the offensive when the referee deemed it necessary for Fraser Caithness and his opposite number to take a 10 minute break to cool off after a minor outbreak of handbags at the breakdown. However, the pressure was maintained and Ryan Taylor obliged with a penalty to tie the scores.
A couple of minutes later Saints were again camped in the opposition 22 and driving forward. As Upton threw men in to stop the drive scrum half Will Headley spotted a gap and shot through to score between the posts. Taylor converted. There was still time for one more drama as Fraser Caithness was deemed guilty of illegally fending off an attempted high tackle, of which there had been several, and the second yellow became a red.
This left Saints with 14 men for a potentially tricky last few minutes but there were no further alarms and victory had been secured.
Saints remain in 8th place but have closed the gap on the mid table sides. A bonus point win over struggling Bedworth could well see them move into the top half of the table this week but they will have to step up a couple of gears if they are to achieve this.