RUGBY PICTURES: Cracking game but sadly not the fairytale end to Newbold’s season

Sam Thompson forcing his way past a Lichfield opponent with brother Ben in support
Sam Thompson forcing his way past a Lichfield opponent with brother Ben in support

Lichfield end Newbold’s Premier division survival hopes with late try

PICTURES BY STEVE SMITH

KJ Henry touches down for a Newbold try

KJ Henry touches down for a Newbold try

Midlands Premier

Lichfield 27 Newbold 21

Congratulations to Lichfield’s players for winning this relegation battle shoot-out, writes Sean O’Brien.

In yet another corker of a match (if you are a neutral) Newbold came back wonderfully from a 17-3 half time deficit to lead 21-20 with five minutes to go. Lichfield then came back bravely to take the spoils with a late try.

Lichfield tackle Declan George

Lichfield tackle Declan George

The early exchanges were fairly even. Lichfield showing they can play a bit and Newbold hugely dominant in the scrummage. Credit to both sets of coaches for giving the back-row players the skills and tenacity to put on a great breakdown battle. This battle on the floor to’d and fro’d, and it would be unfair to declare a winner here.

Lichfield used the wind and sun advantage well early, scoring a converted try from an attack that didn’t seem very threatening, and then a penalty kick soon after for a 10-0 lead. Newbold were struggling a bit with the pace of the game, but despite this earned a penalty which Dan O’Brien slotted to get us on the scoreboard.

Firstly, the ref handled a pressure pot of a game really well, but the yellow card given for a high tackle to five-foot-not-that-many-inches Phil Reed might have been a bit harsh (but the ref was at least 50 metres closer to the incident than me I suppose).

Newbold then committed a bit of harikari, trying to pick and drive from our own 22 whilst under penalty advantage. Once we’d exhausted ourselves, given up the penalty advantage, and infringed ourselves, Lichfield took a quick tap, then cleverly stretched Newbold’s 14-man defence, and scored a try to make it 17-3 at the break. Even the ‘Believers’ amongst the large Newbold support struggling at this stage.

Duzza Ziba and Stu Houghton halting a Lichfield attack

Duzza Ziba and Stu Houghton halting a Lichfield attack

In the second half Newbold responded brilliantly (as so many times before in the last few months), and put in a huge shift. Pressure earned a penalty, kicked by Dan O’Brien to make it 17-6. Sensible stuff, build a score. Newbold were now playing well, and KJ Henry darted over for a try under the posts from Declan George’s offload. A couple of Declan’s other snipes were unlucky not to result in something more, he played very well. The conversion made it 17-13 and Newbold were in striking distance.

Next up, Newbold’s big boys skilfully drove a lineout from 20 metres out, eventually resulting in Stuey Houghton finding great strength to touch down in the right hand corner. The conversion slid past the left upright, meaning it was now 20-18 to Lichfield.

Newbold themselves were using the conditions a bit and were dominant by now. Lichfield were pretty fragile. Ben and Sam Thompson were getting quality lineout ball, Ethan Wookey dinked and grubber kicked sensibly, and the boys were right up for the fight. With five minutes to go, the agonies of the latter stages of the Doncaster Pheonix were back with us as we watched Dan O’Brien line up a long shot which would secure the lead, possibly the win that would avoid relegation. Same as last week, straight through the middle, 21-20 ahead.

To their great credit, Lichfield’s players somehow responded, showing how important to them it is to stay in this league. They earned a long penalty of their own for a Newbold offside – but the kick was missed by Lichfield’s fly half.

Nick Walton forcing his way through

Nick Walton forcing his way through

Was this to be a carbon copy repeat of last week?! I was as high as a kite at this stage, it felt as though ‘Bold had produced the miracle that the season’s efforts deserve, and I’d started looking forward to writing my piece.

But Lichfield had the skills and composure to overcome some brilliant and brave Newbold defence of their own line, to score a converted try right at the death.

There will be no obituary written just yet, just praise galore for Newbold’s squad and coaches for providing fantastic entertainment. ‘Bold will continue to produce good rugby players and a great environment for them to play in. That’ll do nicely for now.

The Village People will be back at this level again. That, I do still believe.

VPs day at Parkfield Road this week for our final game of the season, Longton the visitors. We’ll want to finish on a high.

Phil Reed eyes up his route past an opponent

Phil Reed eyes up his route past an opponent

Ben Dawes feels the full force of the opposition

Ben Dawes feels the full force of the opposition

Sam Thompson battling a lineout

Sam Thompson battling a lineout

Dan Facer makes a break

Dan Facer makes a break