Week off to rest up after 39-19 victory over nearest rivals Old Northamptonians
PICTURES BY STEVE SMITH
Midlands 1 East
Old Northamptonians 19
Newbold on Avon 39
Newbold took a massive step towards National League rugby (yes, National League rugby) with this win over second- placed Old Northamptonians, a victory that was so, so hard-earned. Newbold were magnificent on the day, committed and brutal and skilful in equal measure, writes Sean O’Brien.
ON’s play a lovely brand of rugby, and were worthy opponents throughout. They go wide quickly and skilfully, and hit breakdowns with real vigour and aggression to re-cycle fast, clean ball for their next wave of attackers.
Because of this, Newbold were never able to feel comfortable. Despite the healthy looking scoreline this was a truly nerve wracking afternoon.
Newbold selected the biggest pack the world has ever seen. They took to the field looking like something out of Game of Thrones. Both sides were profligate with possession in the early exchanges, turnover after turnover making it a thrilling start to the game.
Tom Dixon caught a line-out five metres from ON’s try line after five minutes, the wilderbeasts drove on and sent Eddie Allen over in the right hand corner. The conversion shaved the post, 0-5.
Newbold lost the important KJ Henry to injury very early, replaced by Kyle Furlong.
ON’s bounced back with two excellent team scores finished by their pacey left winger, Daniel Odita, one of them converted by Rory Seymour. 12-5 to ON’s.
At this stage Newbold’s excellent travelling support (the best in the league) were worried, because ON’s just looked so good.
However, before long Newbold’s scrum dominance showed itself, and the likes of Ben Dawes, Ben Nuttall and Nick Walton all got the ball in hand and made thunderous in-roads through ON’s defence.
Danny Facer, whose (increasingly) low centre of gravity makes him so difficult to tackle, repeatedly made good ground. The lineout functioned well in windy conditions, Stuey Houghton finding his jumpers with great accuracy.
Another line-out in ON’s 22 was caught by Tom Dixon, the drive earned a penalty, which the lively Declan George tapped and set off on a mazy run. Tom Dixon eventually took a scoring pass to go over in the corner. Dan O’Brien converted well, 12-12.
Newbold were soon in ON’s 22 metre area again, Ben Dawes to the fore. If Dawes wasn’t the highest yard maker on the day, he certainly made the hardest yards – and also scrummaged well. A wonderful effort.
Newbold earned a penalty in front of the ON’s posts and selected to scrummage. They pretty much jogged it over for a Danny Facer score.
This was repeated soon afterwards, also costing ON’s a player to the sin bin. Once converted, the score was 26-12 before the half time break, and bonus point in the bag.
ON’s, now attacking down the slope towards their clubhouse, were excellent in the third quarter, scoring a good converted try to make it 19-26.
There was no chance Newbold were going to concede again though; Mere kids Tom Dixon and Kyle Furlong tackled feverishly, and the big guys kept going and going to put their bodies in the firing line to turnover critical possession at critical times. Full credit to Newbold’s backs also, for keeping their speedier and younger opponents mostly at bay.
This excellent defensive work gave ‘Bold confidence to attack up the hill. Pressure exerted by ‘Bold earned two penalties, which Dan O’Brien put over. 19-32.
O’Brien’s kicking was flawless on this blustery day, whether off the tee for his 14 points, or out of hand from
penalties to get his forwards within catch-and-drive line-out territory all afternoon.
ON’s threw everything at Newbold for the rest of the game but the defence was heroic, typified by a thrilling Ben Dawes tap tackle on ON’s winger.
Newbold mustered up enough energy to put ON’s under pressure in their own 22 in the 75th minute, such that they spilt the ball and Ethan Wookey seized the chance to kick on and touch down to seal a magnificent win.
The conversion took it to 19-39. After the game, Dave Pope - ex player and President - and I, regaled stories of similar fine Newbold RFC performances. There weren’t too many better than this.
It’s a good job there’s no game next week because this match was costly in terms of injuries. Ben Nuttall and Lloyd Warner joined KJ Henry on Rich Welsby’s physio’s table.
Rest up, players, coaches and supporters, you’ll all need some energy for Paviors RFC and a VP’s luncheon at Parkfield Road in a fortnight.