Just three points in it at the final whistle
PICTURES BY STEVE SMITH
Midlands 1 West
Newbold 27 Old Halesonians 24
Happy New Year. I wonder what it will bring for Newbold RFC, writes Sean O’Brien.
Initially, yet another hard-fought win, this time against an on-form Old Halesonians. ‘Hales brought a really well drilled, mobile and skilful team to Parkfield Road - and nearly took away all the points as the Christmas pud looked as though it was going to get the better of the boys in red and black.
Newbold started with Kyle Furlong at hooker, replacing injured Stuey Houghton. Sensibly, Newbold simplified their usual line-out options a little and things went pretty well in that department, which is so key to Newbold’s usual tactics.
Notable also in terms of the line up, was the return of skipper Ben Thompson after a couple of months out. He joined the fray before half time.
Newbold started the stronger earning Dan O’Brien a long pot at goal after just a couple of minutes. 3-0.
Lively Ethan Wookey then ran a try in from halfway-ish as Newbold put good width on the ball. 10-0.
By that stage I’m certain I wasn’t the only person on the sidelines who looked forward to watching ‘Bold pull away and offer up a nice relaxing afternoon for all. Nah. Old Halesonians, like my badly trained Alsatian, refused to lie down. They showed the home side how good they were by playing at real pace, offloading beautifully at times, conjuring up a try themselves for 10-7.
Newbold responded well but butchered a couple of good chances. Dan O’Brien knocked over another three-pointer but my overall assessment of Newbold’s first half performance was ‘wasteful’. Old Hales remained well in the game at 13-7 at half time, buoyed by their success when playing fast, loose and wide. They also gained some superiority in the scrum, which took away Newbold’s go-to weapon on so many previous occasions this season when things have got tough.
However, Newbold aren’t where they are in the table by luck and they got their heads down and worked. Kyle Furlong intercepted on half way, sprinted down the touch line in front of the stand (I’m sure he winked at Stuey Houghton on the way past) and was brought down just short of the line. A good few phases ensued, Curtley Bale involved in many of them, along with KJ Henry, Ben Nuttall and Nick Walton. This little spell exemplified the patience and confidence in their own ability that Newbold have developed over the last few seasons. Kyle Furlong had stayed out on the left wing and soon received a really smart assist from Ben Thompson, and he dived over touching down right on the flag. Dan O’Brien’s crazy corner flag conversion made it 20-7.
Old Hales just went about their business all over again and scored another really good try after Newbold had messed up the exit from kick-off receipt. 20-14. They then kicked a penalty to make it 20-17.
Newbold found the energy and endeavour to put KJ Henry over from a catch and drive line-out, Dan O’Brien converted and a 10-point lead was on the board with around seven minutes to go.
Those damned Old Halesonians, still full of energy, scored a great try off first phase, on the left wing and had the cheek to convert it as well to make the score 27-24 with time still on the clock. Another two minutes of play could have cost us the game.
Chucking a load of words together by way of a summary then, Newbold are smart and have great heart - but the lungs may be dodgy. The defence is wonderfully spirited but absolutely all over the place organisationally. Dan O’Brien’s kick-points are earning league points. But my final words are dedicated to Duzza Ziba, who tackles and scrummages and carries until he drops. What a lad.