Victory over Ledbury in final game secures title
PICTURES BY DAVID LEATHLEY
Midlands 3 West (South)
Rugby St Andrews 60 Ledbury 19
What a great day for Saints when passion, pace and power were the key ingredients in achieving promotion as Champions of West Midlands 3 South. Roared on by a large crowd of well fed and watered VPs and former players, the team rose to meet the demands of this must win game with an intensity that Ledbury could not match.
This is their third championship and promotion since the introduction of the RFU leagues, the last being in 2008, and is the culmination of the years of commitment by a band of stalwart volunteers who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to improve the club’s facilities and playing strength.
It was fitting that many former officials were on hand to see the fruits of their unsung and sometimes unappreciated efforts, together with the coaches of former Junior and Colts players. Take a bow Messrs Lowe, Clynes, Taylor, Derry, Smith, Spencer, Kilborne, Wallace, Bowers and Parish for mentoring young talent and instilling tremendous pride and loyalty in them. Club coach Craig Jones has brought these home grown talents together to build the best team seen at John Tomalin Way for many years.
Any fears that Saints would stumble at the last hurdle in their quest for promotion as champions were soon allayed as they had clearly saved their best for this last crucial game.
The players did their mentors and supporters proud with an exhibition of fast fluid rugby that ran their visitors ragged. Saints needed just a single point to guarantee a promotion place. This they secured after just 20 minutes with their fourth try, but the aim was to go up as champions, which required a win to put them beyond the reach of other aspirants with games in hand. There was no let up until the final whistle – and then the champagne flowed.
A blistering start by Saints pinned Ledbury in their own 22, forcing a defensive knock on, which was collected by Gaz Curtis, who almost forced his way over. Quick recycling and handling enabled Kristen Enefer to scythe through after just three minutes. The heavy rain shower had passed just before kick off but the wet ball was causing handling problems, particularly for the visitors.
Another dropped pass enabled Saints to counter and within a couple of minutes a long pass to the wing gave teenager Jordan Lloydall the chance to display his pace with a maiden try in the corner. Ryan Taylor added his second conversion.
Ledbury demonstrated what they could do if given half a chance when they ran from deep and their dangerous winger brushed off some feeble tackling to touch down between the sticks. Normal service was resumed as Saints again ran in two tries in two minutes.
A poor clearance gave time and space to counter. A bout of interpassing was finished off by Jordan Lloydall, swiftly followed by the try of the match.
Ledbury’s restart did not carry 10 metres and, while the chasers dithered uncertainly, Saints gathered up the ball, moved it sweetly through several pairs of hands for Ryan Sabin to score wide out.
The pressure on the Herefordshire side was relentless. An attacking line out from a penalty provided the opportunity for a successful rolling maul and try number 5, credited to Scott Randall, giving his side a 29–7 lead after 30 minutes.
To their great credit, Ledbury struck again with a carbon copy of their first try as their winger again exposed the wide defence for a seven-pointer. There was just enough time left in the half for Jordan LLoydall to complete his hat-trick after Tom Helliwell had split the midfield defence and delivered a perfectly weighted to the flying wing.
With the result effectively a foregone conclusion Ledbury might have hoped for some respite but Saints were now in full flow. Dan Hull marked his arrival from the bench in typical rumbustious style. Collecting the kick off he swatted off a number of would be tacklers to give Ran Scott the easiest of run ins. The hooker was again lurking to good effect when he collected an inside pass to trot over unchallenged.
There was something of a lull before Dave Rudd was deemed to have been held up over the line. However, he was not to be denied as he sniped over from the resultant scrum. If some of the visitors now looked exhausted the effort of running in two long-range tries had clearly not taken the spring out of their winger’s legs as he intercepted a pass to sprint clear from fully 70 metres for his hat-trick. Scot Randall reprised his try scoring role from a lineout drive. Ryan Taylor landed his fourth second-half conversion and that completed the scoring in a vastly entertaining game, at least as far as the home supporters were concerned.
Special mention should be made of that frequently maligned specie, the referee. On this occasion the young exchange ref from Gloucester Society was excellent. Unobtrusive, clear and firm in his decisions, he allowed the game to flow, using the whistle as a last resort. His refreshing post match comment was that he considered it his responsibility to help players to enjoy the game. He certainly did that.
Whether they move back to the more demanding Midlands East league next season or remain in the South will not be decided until all the outstanding matches have been played, but Saints are fully aware that they will need to recruit and raise their game if they are to establish themselves at the next level. They already know that they will be without the services of the evergreen Spencer Brown, who is not only their leading try scorer but also the club’s backs coach. He will be a hard act to follow and the club wish him every success in his new venture.