National Senior Vase Round 2 Harborne 5 Rugby St Andrews 24
Rugby St Andrews had the worst possible preparation for their trip to high-flying Harborne for their second round Senior Vase tie.
The early kick-off ruled out a number of players meaning six changes from the previous week.
The travelling convoy was then held up for over an hour en route, allowing them only a 10-minute warm-up – just about enough time for the players to introduce themselves to each other.
But Saints responded with a superb team effort to upset the form book and win with some style.
Rain meant the lush pitch was holding water in some areas and the wet ball caused handling problems.
With the gusting wind behind them Saints were quickly on the offensive and had Harborne pinned in their own 22.
The home side was happy enough to run the ball out of defence but a combination of strong tackling and poor handling prevented them lifting the siege.
Sustained pressure finally paid off as good handling enabled George Headley to score between the posts for Ryan Taylor to convert.
Harborne quickly reduced the deficit when their dangerous fly-half cut through and just reached the line.
This was to be the only time he escaped the magnificent marauding back row and, with their playmaker shackled, Harborne’s attack was more easily contained.
Despite further pressure Saints could only add a Ryan Taylor penalty for a narrow 10-5 half-time lead.
Saints knew they would need a supreme effort against the wind and a side averaging over 40 points a game.
But they had the ideal start when incisive running and handling from the backs stretched Harborne’s defence and the ball was switched back inside to the rampaging Mark Brightwell who blitzed through a group of defenders to score.
Taylor converted and, with the pack well on top in the set-pieces, Saints continued to press through some controlled driving mauls.
After conceding a number of penalties they had a player yellow-carded.
A man up, scrum-half Will Headley sniped down the short side and, when held, slipped the ball back inside.
Brightwell carried a couple of defenders with him as he touched down and Taylor again landed a tricky conversion to put his team 24-5 up.
Knowing a quick score was essential if they were to save the game, Harborne threw everything at it.
Wave after wave of attack were repulsed as every player committed to cause and successfully denied the home side even a late consolation in what was undoubtedly their best performance of the season.
Special credit goes to those who stepped up at short notice, particularly Matty Waldron, impeccable at full back, Chris Heslop, normally a scrum half, at hooker and Matt Rudd who moved from flank to prop, doing sterling work in the tight and loose.