RUGBY: Late burst spells defeat for Rugby St Andrews

Game finely poised at 15-11 with 15 minutes to go

Tuesday, 24th January 2017, 5:12 am
Ryan Taylor takes a kick in Saturday's game PICTURES BY DAVID LEATHLEY

Midlands 3 West (South)

Old Coventrians 30

Rugby St Andrews 11

With 15 minutes left on the clock the game was finely poised at 15–11 in the home side’s favour but their late burst left Saints pointless and ruing their failure to make the most of their first-half opportunities.

With skipper Jamie Clynes unavailable Ryan Taylor moved to fly half. The pack was almost at full strength with Grant Taylor and Dan Hull returning. It was, therefore, disappointing that they still experienced problems at the set scrum and lineout at critical moments in both defence and attack.

Saints seized the initiative from the first whistle, so much so that OCs never progressed beyond the half way line for the first 20 minutes. The home side were clearly rattled, conceding a string of penalties and resorting to some unsavoury confrontations that resulted in the binning of two players.

Unfortunately one such incident resulted in the loss of Tom Helliwell whose powerful running had caused havoc in the midfield and the loss of that physicality left Saints with a somewhat one-dimensional attack. Intending to make the most of their numeric advantage Saints opted to kick penalties to the corners and attack from the lineout, a tactic that has normally paid rich dividends, but on four occasions thrower and jumpers were marginally out of sync and OCs scrambled the ball away.

Eventually a well controlled rolling maul trundled up the slope, sucking in more and more defenders, allowing Kristen Ennifer to break clear from 20 metres for the opening score.

Back at full strength the home side made ground with a couple of penalties and from a lineout their centre cut a good line to touch down and tie the scores.

Saints continued to press and Ryan Taylor put over a penalty to regain the lead but with just minutes remaining of the half the Coventry side forced a series of five-metre scrums. The forwards did well to thwart three pushover attempts but were unable to halt another forward drive. The successful conversion ended the half and edged the home side into a 12–8 lead.

Knowing that they needed the next score, Saints were straight onto the offensive. Yet another penalty was fired into the corner and this time everything seemed to have gone to plan as Grant Taylor collected the tap down and surged for the line. He was tackled just short but stretched and dotted down between the sticks. Even though there were no defenders near the ball as he touched down the referee decided that it had been held up and ordered a scrum. Another penalty was awarded and this time Ryan Taylor took the three points.

Grant Taylor, with Tom Helliwell and Andy Smith

With just a point separating the sides play ebbed and flowed. Saints’ hopes were raised when Josh Peat raced onto a clever kick but was defeated by a difficult bounce without a defender in sight.

OCs reopened the gap with a penalty and began to play with more confidence. Saints’ defence came under mounting pressure, much of it self inflicted as they failed to clear their lines in non-threatening situations and OCs demonstrated how to turn pressure into points with three tries in a ten-minute burst.

The result drops Saints down one place in the congested mid table. This week they host Old Leamingtonians. The earlier loss was somewhat contentious as the home side snatched a last-minute win when Saints had been reduced to 13 men in the final quarter.

Saints' Dan Hull at Old Coventrians on Saturday
Grant Taylor, with Tom Helliwell and Andy Smith
Saints' Dan Hull at Old Coventrians on Saturday