Top of table clash at Parkfield Road this weekend
Midlands 1 West
Whitchurch 10 Newbold 13
This was arguably Newbold’s best result of the season, better by far than the 40 and 50 point home wins of September and early October, writes Sean O’Brien.
Think back to any title winning season (any sport you like) and you’ll remember the hard, narrow away victories as the important wins, not the 50 point stuffings.
Whitchurch will feel a bit disappointed that their excellent team performance never secured the win, but they will also respect an excellent defensive shift from their visitors.
Whitchurch scored two tries to Newbold’s one, but they failed with two pretty simple conversions whilst Dan O’Brien continued as he has all season hitting all his chances, this week two good penalties and a conversion.
James McGill was called upon early when key man Declan George took a bang to his knee. He returned later which is great news; he’s part of the machine now.
I normally cover lots of ground up and down the touch line whilst watching a game but this week I only strayed from one 22 metre line to the other because that’s where most of the play was. This was because both sides’ defences were organised and dominant. It also means I’ll have to pad out this match report a bit because as important as good defence is, it makes for a drab read.
Newbold got to 6-0 with two Dan O’Brien penalties after Whitchurch’s defence became over enthusiastic.
Newbold lost their self-proclaimed title as best scrum in the league (self praise is no praise at all I suppose). Whitchurch’s eight were big, strong and technically good in the clinches. Seeing Newbold in retreat is a rare old sight - it didn’t really even happen in the pro’s league above last season. Whitchurch even had the temerity to choose a scrum from a penalty award near Newbold’s line and go for the pushover. Cheeky devils. They messed it up though at the base, and Newbold cleared.
Whitchurch were also unlucky to spill the ball over Newbold’s line in the first half. They did get over soon after though, their strong running (but never passing) outside centre finished under the posts. The conversion was in explicably missed. 6-5 at half time, to Newbold.
The line-out was excellent however, and Stuey Houghton deserves credit for this. Whitchurch had some height so Newbold had to call and execute all of their line out variations to claim valuable possession.
Whitchurch’s big pack loved to handle the ball as well. They had plenty of willing carriers who ran hard at Bold’s defence all afternoon. Newbold smashed them back time and time again though, which certainly disheartened ‘Church. Tom Dixon tackled his little heart out, and got around the paddock well again. KJ Henry’s tackle count was high as always. Duzza Ziba flew into the tackles as well - even after hard scrummage work - smiling pretty much throughout.
In terms of ‘go forward’, Ben Thompson carried on his recent good form, making good hard yards. We needed more of that though to breach the Whitchurch ramparts. Danny Facer was that battering ram for his weekly 20 minute cameo.
With ten minutes to go Newbold earned a penalty and old boys Nigel Evans and Knocker Culver (and maybe me) shouted for it to be kicked at goal. It went to the corner instead, Ben Thompson claimed it, Ben Nuttall took it on, KJ Henry scored the try that Dan O’Brien then converted. 13-5 and some welcome daylight.
Not for long though because Whitchurch went up the other end and scored with a powerful forward drive from a line out. It finished 10-13 then, and Whitchurch were left rueing the missed conversions that would have given them a wonderful win.
Eyes up for the biggy next week - Bromsgrove. First versus second in the table. Very tasty indeed. Will Whitchurch have given Newbold the gee up they needed to come out all guns blazing next week? I reckon so.
Newbold 2nds finished runners-up in the final of the Warwickshire 2nd XV Cup on Sunday at Leamington, with Broadstreet 2nds winning 39-5.