Pictures by Steve Smith
Midlands 1 West
Droitwich 7 Newbold 54
Newbold went to Droitwich, a hard place to win, to play an on-form side on a roll of three straight wins, writes Sean O’Brien.
Despite ‘Bold themselves having won the first eight games on the bounce, this was a real banana skin. Newbold played the first half with a telling wind behind them and needing to make the most of this advantage. Newbold also had the advantage of their travelling supporters who Chairman Fez would like to thank once again for making the journey - and making a big difference.
However, Droitwich started impressively, playing with real pace and breaking through Newbold’s defence repeatedly. They are a good outfit. Nick Walton, skipper for the day in Ben Thompson’s absence, was yellow carded early for an illegal clear out which increased the pressure on the league leaders. But, as they have in the last few weeks, Newbold never panicked, stayed calm and rode this tricky period.
Normally in these situations Newbold simply mobilise the heavy artillery and pummel the opposition pack into submission. It works, so why not? However, Saturday was different.
This really felt like a new dawn for Newbold. Without many of their Generals on the day, Newbold instead trusted in the ball-playing ability of the young bucks that came into the side (plus Danny Facer who had to play/survive a full 80 minutes) and took the game to Droitwich.
One leader did remain in the backs, Phil Reed, who replaced injured Declan George at scrum half, Dan O’Brien taking on the inside centre duties and Josh Cooke coming in at fly-half. Reedo bossed and marshalled, and the young back division outside him played freely. Josh Cooke shone on his first start, Dan O’Brien and Ed Scott were excellent in the centres, and the back three were just so dangerous. Jamie Mapletoft is dancing past defenders nowadays.
It would be harsh to not give the pack deserved credit also, but I just want to write about something else for a change. Ben Nuttall and Ben Dawes made bursts that forced a ruck close to Droitwich’s line, and Phil Reed popped short to Tom Dixon who sprinted over for a great try, 0-7.
‘Bold were playing with real pace and endeavour, and Danny Facer profited from this, flopping over for 0-14. A bit of a scramash (I spent a few days in Edinburgh last week) kept things lively, and Newbold camped in Droitwich’s 22 metre area, leading to Phil Reed darting over in the corner from the back of a scrum. The ridiculous wind-hindered conversion from Dan O’Brien made it 21-0 at half time.
Joss Thompson took one of his many line-outs early in the second half, leading to an Ed Scott break and a Jamie Mapletoft finish. Danny Facer’s lack of match fitness, or any fitness for that matter, didn’t stop him having an influential afternoon. He broke from the base of a scrum and made huge yardage before putting in Sam Thompson for a beauty. 0-33.
Newbold had now cut loose and were running free and Manny Sidhu flashed in on the right. Ed Scott, loving it at Outside Centre, sold an old-school dummy to make a gap that he shot through for a try of his own late on.
Josh Cooke put in a long cross field kick that Manny Sidhu retrieved and scored from. Two for him then, leaving the starting wingers James McGill and Lee Lightowler (who both had very good games) green with envy.
I could have got the one conversion that Dan O’Brien missed, in my work shoes. His other seven were good though, and his kicking out of hand used the wind to magnificent effect. His Uncle Ned - a Droitwich supporter - had never sworn at him before Saturday.
Droitwich scored a well-deserved converted try midway through the second half. They are good enough to finish mid-table.
The Newbold boys will rest up next week and then play Dudley Kingswinford the week after. Another stern test, DK’s knocked up 93 points on Saturday so are another side on form. Enjoy the week off.