RUGBY: Saints miss out by just one point

Mark Dunkley, 'Pin' Devgun and Matt Waldron against Manor Park on Saturday  Pictures by David Leathley
Mark Dunkley, 'Pin' Devgun and Matt Waldron against Manor Park on Saturday Pictures by David Leathley

RFU Senior Vase date with Dunstablians this weekend

Midlands 3 West (South)

Jamie Clynes and Kristen Ennifer in the tackle with Ryan Taylor watching

Jamie Clynes and Kristen Ennifer in the tackle with Ryan Taylor watching

Manor Park 21

Rugby St Andrews 20

Saints were so close to ending Manor Park’s long run of home victories when Ryan Taylor’s touchline conversion attempt struck the far post and dropped agonisingly on the wrong side of the crossbar.

Success would have given them a single point lead with only minutes remaining but the home side made the most of the let off to close out this bruising encounter by the narrowest possible margin.

Saints playing Manor Park  (Picture by David Leathley)

Saints playing Manor Park (Picture by David Leathley)

Saints welcomed back four established first teamers but this was immeduately offset by the unabailability of four others who had made major contributions in the previous match, leaving them with an inexperienced back row against a side that relies largely on forward strength and route one rugby.

However, although substantially outweighed, Saints scrummaged effectively and generally defended well against the home side’s relentless pick and drive, rolling mauls and crash ball tactics, which allowed them to monopolose possession for long periods.

A strong opening quarter, with the backs looking dangerous paid dividends when Jamie Clynes received quick ruck ball and split the defence for a spectacular solo try, converted by Ryan Taylor. Manor Park tied the scores when a couple of missed tackles cost Saints a converted try.

More good approach work set up Jamie Clynes for a neat drop goal, only to see the lead snatched away by a second home try courtesy of unconvincing defending to give them a narrow 14-10 interval lead but with the prospect of playing up the slope in the second half.

Saints were clearly committed to moving the ball wide, which gave them the best chance of negating the Nuneaton side’s forwards, but execution was poor with too many passes going astray. Manor Park’s route one proved more effective when their powerful fly half shook off two tackles and freed his centre for a clear run to the line. The conversion wobbled over for an 11-point lead, which clearly boosted their confidence sufficiently to attempt to play with more width.

Good line speed by Saints’ backs forced a number of handling errors in midfield, but erratic play again let the Park regain the initative. Persistence was finally rewarded and Saints’ sweeping counters from within their own 22 produced two tries. Both were similar in their creation, with good use of the short side to release Tom Oglethorpe. When challenged he put in perfectly judged kicks, which the full back struggled to clear.

The hosts managed to contain a couple of waves of attacks, but then ran out of defenders as Will Headley crossed wide out. Manor Park attempted to shut up shop and ground their way uphill again into the visitors’ 22, where they lost possession and were forced back to within a few yards of their own line. In some disarray, they concede a penalty at the breakdown. Quick thinking and quick hands saw the ball transferred to Tom Oglethorpe, who touched down in the corner. There was still time for Manor Park’s pack to lay siege to Saints’ line, denying them a touch of the ball to run down the clock for victory.

Once again there were pluses. For the second week running Saints have clawed back a significant points deficit with some enterprising play in the latter stages of the games, which demons trates the character and ability in the squad. Clearly there is still plenty of work to be done on the training paddock if Saints are to win regularly in this comptitive league where only two sides remain unbeaten after just two weeks.

Both of those teams have benefited by Upton conceding against them, so it is difficult to identify who are likely promotion candidates at this early stage.

This week Saints travel to Dunstablians in the RFU Senior Vase competition. Their previous visit in the league last season saw a much weakened side go down to a heavy defeat. The home side have made an indifferent start to this campaign and, like Saints, would welcome a confidence- boosting win before returning to league action next week against Old Coventrians, when the club will be hosting the first of this season’s former players and VP luncheon.

This is an ideal opportunity for meeting up with old friends and anyone who has not received a formal invitation but would like to attend, should contact Dave Eaton on 07736 385759.

Saints Development 18

Newbold Crusaders 43

Newbold’s expectations of a points bonanza against a cobbled-together Saints’ team were deferred until the second half by a grimly determined home performance that had them trailing by just a couple of points at half time 15-13.

Aided by the vistors’ indiscipline and clear frustration with the referee and Saints’ refusal to be intimidated they notched two penalties and a goal before Newbold ran in their third try for a narrow lead.

The second half was a different matter as Newbold capitalised clinically on any errors to run in 28 points before Saints had the last word when good support play from a tap penalty gave them a late and deserved consolation try.

This week Saints host Silhillians in the Warwickshire second team cup competition.

Saints Colts v

Stratford Development

Stratford’s established large squad of well-drilled players quickly demonstrated the benefits of moving through the junior ranks together. Saints are still building their squad, welcoming another couple of new players for this game and found it difficult to match the opposition in terms of continuity and game organisation.

Their cause was not helped by unfortunate injuries, although Stratford sportingly provided substitutes to level the sides.

Saints stuck valiantly to their task, showing improvements in several aspects of their play, particularly communication amongst the forwards and in the line out, where a training ground move narrowly failed to produce a score.

Saints travel to Southam this weekend and are still looking to boost the squad. Training is on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, when the RFU’s CRC will take the sessions, starting at 7pm. New or former juniors are welcome to attend or ring Michael Wallace on 07703 322187.