RUGBY: Saints fight back with five tries in last half hour

Saints playing Manor Park last season, back in January
Saints playing Manor Park last season, back in January

Coach feels game should have been a five-pointer, not just two

Midlands 3 West (South)

Rugby St Andrews 29

Manor Park 32

Five tries and 29 points in the last half hour was not enough to salvage victory over opportunistic Manor Park, who soundly punished a string of basic errors, running up 25 points before profligate Saints had troubled the scoreboard.

But once Steve Young scored it was virtually one-way traffic, interrupted only by a second long-range interception try which effectively sealed Saints’ fate.

It all started so promisingly. The watching former players were treated to sparkling running by the backs as they went through their routines. Unfortunately the handling was less impressive as many initial line breaks ended prematurely with fumbled passes or overambitious off loads. The visitors were struggling to contain waves off attacks but the concession of regular penalties gave them breathing space and chances to relieve the pressure.

But, with the pack dominant in the set scrums there was confidence that it was only a matter of time before everything clicked and the tries would flow. Not so, however, having been under the cosh for 20 minutes the Nuneaton team worked their way upfield and landed a mid field penalty. Worse followed when Saints leaked a long range interception try. Park’s kicker, who was to miss only one of six attempts, put over the conversion and then a second penalty. Saints continued to press. The visitors’ lost a man to the bin but their try-line defence held to take a 13-point lead into the second half.

Saints’ restart went straight into touch, giving Manor Park a midfield scrum from which they progressed upfield. The charge was halted close to the line but a second drive was successful.

With 20 points in the bag The Park were quite happy to kick for territory and wait for mistakes. They did not have to wait for long as a flap back from a lineout (or was it a knock forward?) resulted in 5m scrum from which they scored again. Belatedly Saints began to find some structure and rhythm.

The visitors’ efforts to repel them drew more and more penalties. Ryan Taylor’s long-range touch finders set up lines out from which Steve Young and then Ran Scott were driven over and Saints were looking very dangerous against a clearly flagging defence.

With the clock much against them Saints needed to press on but Manor Park then pulled off a carbon copy interception to re-establish a 20-point lead.

Undeterred they piled the pressure on an increasingly desperate but hard working defence. There was nothing they could do to prevent Will Headley’s run to the posts after a quick throw in.

A second Park forward went into the bin and, when a panicky pass into their in goal was fumbled, Kristen Ennifer dived in to score. Yet another penalty was kicked to the corner. The drive was cynically and blatantly thwarted for the third yellow. The ball was returned to touch and this time Saints drove over again with Dave Rudd touching down. Both conversion efforts shaved the uprights but the deficit was now only three points with four minutes to play.

The restart was run back with interest, forcing yet another penalty within kicking distance and the chance of at least a draw. A brave decision to go for the win backfired as the lineout, which had functioned so well and already produced three tries, for once failed to secure the ball, which the Nuneaton side scooped up and booted into touch to end the game.

Whilst complimenting the team on the spirit and style of their fightback, coach Craig Jones was justifiably critical of the lapses in concentration which allowed Manor Park so many easy points. It should have been a five pointer instead of just the two.

Saints will need to be more focused when they will be facing another strong forward oriented challenge this week at Old Coventrians, whose well- drilled pack is expected to rumble effectively once again.

The seconds also take on OCs while the Colts travel to Newbold for a league game.

Saints young second team followed up last week’s win over Newbold thirds with a comprehensive 50-17 defeat of Nuneaton Old Eds. The side included five who were playing Colts rugby last year and, supported by some older heads, they simply had too much pace for a game and sporting opposition. The youngsters all made significant contributions, which bodes well for the future.

The Vets game on the adjoining pitch followed a similar pattern, but this time it was visiting Rugby Welsh who were too quick for their more venerable opponents, who still summoned up enough puff to run in some good tries of their own.