Gutsy display in defeat by Ledbury
Midlands 3 East (South)
Rugby St Andrews 21
Saints will be frustrated by this loss in their first league outing, but shorn of six first choice players against a side that narrowly missed promotion last season, should also derive considerable encouragement from a gutsy display.
Albeit with contrasting styles, the sides were evenly matched in all but the crucial area of goalkicking where Ledbury were clearly superior, landing seven out of eight attempts from a variety of distances and angles.
Saints, in stark contrast, struck just one out of five shots, so despite outscoring the visitors by three tries to two slipped to defeat.
Ledbury’s first success came after just six minutes when their fly half banged over a penalty into the wind from 48 metres. Saints regained possession from the restart and Jamie Clynes slotted over a drop goal. Another long-range penalty from Ledbury regained the lead and they went further ahead when Saints were caught napping by a converted try from a quickly taken penalty.
Ryan Sabin cut the deficit with a three-pointer but his side were finding it difficult to counter the visitors’ spoiling tactics at the breakdown, which continually denied them quick ball. Despite this, good hands and clever running lines continually asked questions of the rush defence without managing to apply the finishing touch.
It was against the run of play that Saints conceded another penalty and a well worked try before a practice ground move bisected the midfield defenders for Fraser Caithness to sprint in from 30 metres.
For the next 15 minutes Saints were well on top but were still unable to find the continuity to breach a well organised defence.
On 40 minutes Ledbury cleared out of their own half and put over another long-range kick for a comfortable 13-point lead at the interval.
A superb counter from the restart and good recycling opened up a gap for scrum half Kieron Waldron to notch his first try for the club. Unfortunately, fellow debutant Dan Hull, whose powerful ball carrying had been impressive, was injured in the build up and was forced off the field.
Saints persisted with their running and handling game whereas their opponents effectively shut up shop with a ten-man territorial game, which paid dividends with two more penalties.
After a series of offences at the breakdown Ledbury were eventually reduced to 14 men and Saints pressure enabled Spencer Brown to wriggle through for the deserved try.
It was then the home side’s turn to incur the referee’s displeasure, conceding a string of penalties that had them pinned in their 22 for the rest of the game, effectively wiping out any hope of further points, which would have earned at least a losing bonus point.
There were certainly more positives than negatives. Clearly the problem of goal kicking needs to be addressed but the good news was the welcome return to action by Flinty Lister, Matt Rudd and Ryan Sabin plus impressive debuts by three other players.
Set pieces worked well and the backs were dangerous, especially when given quick ball. There are three or four injury worries, hopefully none too serious, and with half a dozen influential players available for the game against resurgent Manor Park there will be some interesting discussions in selection.
The seconds return to action with a home game against Newbold thirds while the Colts are at home to Stratford.