Rugby St Andrews in action on Saturday
Midlands 3 East (South)
Northampton Men’s Own 26
Rugby St Andrews 27
Saints’ blushes were spared by a 76th minute try and conversion that edged them ahead for the first time in the match.
Mens Own may already have been condemned to relegation with nothing but pride to play for, but their feisty first-half performance enabled them to run up 26 points to demonstrate that they planned to go out with a bang and not a whimper. Dominant in the set pieces and more committed at second phase they made good use of the wind and slope to keep Saints under pressure and cross for 4 tries to give themselves a realistic chance of a rare victory.
Their intent was made abundantly clear after only four minutes when they forced a penalty from Saint’s backpedalling scrum but scorned the simple shot at goal and opted for a kick to the corner.
The trade mark catch and drive worked to perfection and the try was scored. Facing the strong wind Saints decision to keep the ball in hand was sensible but anything other than a short pass in these conditions was hazardous and, in attempting to get the ball into the wide channels too quickly, many went astray and promising chances were lost. Ryan Taylor did pop over a penalty but another kick to the corner by the home side set up the opportunity of another catch and drive. This time the initial surge was halted but the second was successful, as was the conversion. Once again Saints worked their way upfield and twice opened up the defence only for the ball carrier to lose his footing with the line beckoning. They were then caught out by a quick counter and slick interpassing allowed the home winger to score and worse followed when their scrum half quickly took a tap penalty on the stroke of half time to touch down between the posts. With both conversions added Saints trailed by 26 – 3 and faced a tremendous challenge against a fired up opposition who would clearly give body parts for the victory, to use a couple of overworked phrases.
Saints knew that an early score was essential if they were to rescue the game and some enterprising back play set up the try for Merion Parsons after just 4 minutes. Tom Helliwell then forced his way through to touch down at full stretch. Ryan Taylor converted. Saints were now on a roll but the first half efforts of the home side were beginning to take their toll with frequent and protracted stoppages for injury that gave the beleaguered bravehearts some respite and recovery time. However, they failed to cope with another of Spencer Brown’s darting runs on the hour and the margin was down to just six points.
Mens Own continued to defend desperately and conceded a string of red zone penalties that inevitably led to yellow cards. With only minutes left Kalum Goodfellow capped an impressive performance with another bullocking run and the hitherto elusive try. Ryan Taylor, Saints leading scorer with 228 points, had an awkward kick for the vital extras but did what he has done throughout the season and coolly slotted home the conversion. All credit to the home side, they then threw everything at Saints for a couple of hectic minutes without any reward.
There were far too many errors for this to qualify this as a classic encounter but both sides contributed fully to an exciting game and should derive some encouragement for next season. Saints will be disappointed to end in 5th place after mounting a late challenge for promotion but the performance of the youngsters who have stepped up to cover for more established players through the year gives hope that 2015/16 will be that much more productive as they gain experience.