Rugby St Andrews
Rugby St Andrews progressed unchallenged into the first round of the Warwickshire Shield when Alcester conceded their home tie, again highlighting the difficulties in raising a side over a pre season Bank Holiday, especially at relatively short notice.
Saints were prepared to travel with a much weakened team as ten of last season’s promotion squad were not available. However, a practice game was hastily arranged against Hinckley Staghounds, giving a number of players a chance to stake a claim for a first team place.
Opting to field their stronger team for the first period, they impressed with deft handling by forwards and backs. Excellent line speed and aggressive tackling forced the home side into frequent handling errors and infringements at the breakdown. Two tries came in quick succession before Hinckley broke through the midfield. This was quickly cancelled out after a sweeping counter attack but, on the stroke of half time, the home side finally achieved some continuity and scored their second converted try.
Saints rang the changes and were swiftly punished for their hesitancy and lack of organisation. Within just five minutes the home side had romped into a 33–19 lead playing the sort of rugby expected of a National 2 club. To their great credit Saints stemmed the flow and then responded with a brace of tries to cut the deficit to just 2 points. Going all out for the win, they were caught out by two rather fortuitous converted tries in the last three minutes for a final 47–31, having been outscored by 7 tries to 5.
Standing in for Craig Jones, Carl Roderick, who has led Saints’ pre-season training, was delighted by the effort and commitment shown in the three warm-up games, particularly by players who are not normally exposed to this level of competition.
There is good depth for most positions, which is a healthy situation. There has been plenty to admire in the last three weeks but there is still plenty of work to be done on both fitness and skills if the teams are to be competitive in their leagues.
The firsts do not start their league programme until September 8, when they host Evesham, who ended in a creditable sixth place in their first season at level 7. They will not have pleasant memories of their only trip to John Tomalin Way in the previous season when they were visibly upset by a 42–16 defeat that nearly scuppered their hopes of promotion. This will be a good test of Saints’ credibility at the higher level.
Saints seconds travel to Long Buckby for their first game this Saturday, while the Development team host Broadstreet vets.