Action from Saints’ 20-7 win, their fifth in the last seven games
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Midlands 3 West (South)
Rugby St Andrews 20
Manor Park 7
Maintaining their improved form, Saints made it five wins from the last seven games, gaining revenge for their earlier single-point loss to Manor Park, in this mid-table tussle.
Lessons had been learnt from the previous encounter and Saints opted for a more structured game against a side that relies almost entirely on a strong set of forwards. Manor Park’s own coach had already helpfully described his backs as a “blunt Knife”, which meant that Saints could play a more territorial game, confident in their ability to keep the visitors at long range.
Two early raking kicks from fly half Jamie Clynes set the pattern and enabled his team to set up camp in the opposition’s half. Manor Park relieved the pressure with a couple of penalties and had the first chance of points but the long range attempt fell short. Ryan Taylor made no mistake with an easier effort after 15 minutes.
Clever tactical kicking allied to strong tackling around the fringes and in midfield made it difficult for the visitors to break out of defence and the inevitable score came on the half hour. Good interpretation of the advantage law enabled Saints to go through five phases after an offside offence had been signalled and crisp handling gave Josh Peak space to cross in the corner. Taylor converted for a 10 point interval lead.
It was more of the same from the restart with Manor Park unable to make much headway even through their big forwards. Saints, in contrast, were beginning to punch holes through the midfield, courtesy of good hands and running lines.
It was simple but effective rugby and it was no surprise when play was switched from left to right and Ryan Sabin floated out a scoring pass to Spencer Brown for the fellow winger to run in unopposed. More unselfish offloading and interpassing produced the third try for Ryan Taylor. Now well in control Saints pushed for a bonus point try.
They spurned three easy shots at goal in favour of attacking lines out. For once their usual accuracy deserted them and Manor Park were able to scramble the ball away.
The visitors were intent on salvaging something and finally managed to sustain their attacks. Saints conceded a string of penalties and lost a man to the bin before the visiting prop was driven over from short range for a converted try in the closing minutes.
This was a good all-round team performance. The pack more than held their own against powerful opponents and the backs were solid in defence and attack. There is still a worrying tendency to concede penalties at the breakdown, many of them when in possession, which is unusual as referees tend to favour the attacking side.
If Saints are to continue their climb up the table they will need to eradicate these errors. Their next opponents will be on January 21 at Old Coventrians, who have had a mixed season but sit in fifth place. Saints dominated at Ashlawn Road and were ahead for most of the game but a couple of tough decisions and a short loss of composure allowed the Coventry side to snatch an improbable single-point win by 36 points to 35.