Victory at much-improved Old Halesonians
PICTURES BY STEVE SMITH
Midlands 1 West
Old Halesonians 10 Newbold 30
It was first versus second in the table on Saturday, a match between two sides relegated from the Midlands Premiership last season, writes Sean O’Brien.
Old Halesonians are a much changed - and much better - side from last year. They had a lively and mobile pack but their real strength was in the backs. They looked very dangerous on numerous occasions but struggled to finish off some really good chances they’d worked hard to create.
Newbold had to make a couple of changes to the selected team, with Charlie Reed and James McGill coming in for Danny Facer and Ed Spencer due to injuries.
Newbold also had at least ‘an extra man’ in their travelling support, which contained a bus load of ex-Veterans away on a Jolly Boys golf and rugby outing. They offered all sorts of quality advice all afternoon.
The old boys were cheering early when the livewire Declan George sniped through a gap following slightly less snipey short bursts from Ben’s Thompson and Dawes. Dan O’Brien added the two points.
Possibly against the run of play Old Hales scored an interception try from half way, and this encouraged them.
Before long Newbold were struggling to contain the pace and skills of their hosts, but they cover tackled well, with Charlie Reed and Tom Dixon at the top of the tackle chart for the afternoon.
Old Halesonians were defending one of Newbold’s ‘go-to’ weapons - the line-out catch and drive - very well indeed. So Newbold had to vary things up a bit, which they did quite nicely.
The backs looked sharp at times, and a few grubber kicks and chips from various players could easily have bounced a little more generously.
So Old Hales had very much the better of the second quarter, running the visitors ragged at times, and they put the bits together wonderfully well for a good score on the right wing after 20 minutes. Newbold were fretting. This made it 10-7. Hales’ goal kicking was as wayward as some of old boy Phil George’s golf shots the previous afternoon unfortunately for them.
O’Brien slotted a good penalty for 10-10 at half time.
Coach Matt Davies had ‘a quiet word’ at half time, and this seemed to take effect. Immediately Declan George again made the Hales’ fringe defence look absent and he was supported by Ben Thompson and then Stuey Houghton to dot down for 10-17 after the conversion.
Newbold’s energy levels were high and they eventually wore down the Old Hales pack, and this led to a penalty infringement for offside which O’Brien dispatched nicely. 10-20.
Sensible captaincy had O’Brien kicking another good penalty to make it 10-23 with 15 minutes to Another 100% successful kick rate for Newbold’s massive marksman.
Sam Thompson did plenty of heavy duty work, willingly charging into the heart of Hales’ defensive line.
It was this sort of pressure that earned the penalty that earned a line out in Hales’ 22, which Tom Dixon claimed easily. The big units then engaged and gave Stuey Houghton his second of the day. He mentioned something about ‘30 metres’ after the game but I assumed that this was his yardage for the season. The game went totally open for the remainder, which was great entertainment for a decent crowd on a bright afternoon.
A couple of injured players may be available again next week and on the adjoining pitch at Halesowen the second team were winning very well indeed. This makes for a tricky selection meeting on Tuesday, but we’re happy enough to have those sorts of problem to deal with.
Most teams will lose at Old Halesonians this season, so this was a great result.
Stoke-on-Trent come to Parkfield Road this Saturday, for round four of what is so far, a very promising season for the boys in the red and black.