Defeat severely dents promotion bid
Midlands 3 East (South)
Rugby St Andrews 14
A dominant second half was not enough to make up for earlier deficiencies as Daventry held on to effectively end Saints’ bid for promotion.
There were four enforced changes in the back division and, whilst there were plenty of individual breaks, the usual deftness, understanding and cohesion were missing, giving defenders the opportunity to regroup. Saints persisted with their attempts to play fluid rugby but made far too many basic errors to achieve any continuity, whereas the home team opted for a more structured approach, competing aggressively at the breakdown and establishing field position with some fine kicking.
Their patience was rewarded by two well executed tries while Saints managed to squander a couple of good opportunities before exerting sustained pressure on the Daventry line that almost rescued the game.
Saints were the first to attack and, when their first line out drive was illegally thwarted, they opted for a second attempt. Having just lost influential flanker Kristen Ennifer, trapped at the bottom of the previous maul, to a stamp on his outstretched leg, the pack was reshuffled and a breakdown in communications resulted in a penalty to Daventry.
They cleared their lines and took advantage of Saints’ disarray with a training ground move from the line out that enabled them to squeeze in at the corner after 15 minutes. This was converted.
Saints continued to struggle with the home side’s tactics and referee’s requirements at the breakdown which resulted in slow ball, totally unsuitable for the expansive game they wanted to play. Daventry capitalised on the resultant errors with a second try from a perfectly weighted kick and quick transfer of the ball. The conversion put them 14 points to the good. Saints had the chance to cut the deficit with a penalty before half time but this was missed.
Saints restarted with far more urgency but were penalised the first time that Daventry came within kicking range and the three points were added. From then on Daventry hardly left their own half as they were subjected to virtually non stop pressure.
Jason Warren was set clear for the posts but play was halted by the whistle and Saints were bizarrely awarded a penalty for an earlier offence. Efforts to lift the siege became more desperate and all too frequently illegal until the yellow card was finally issued for continual offences in the red zone. Mark Brightwell finally forced his way over and Ryan Taylor followed shortly after and converted both tries.
Daventry continued to defend resolutely. Will Headley was ankle tapped just short of the line, a massive overlap was ignored and when Saints finally crashed over for what they thought was the winning score, the referee had spotted that the ball had been nudged forward before touching down. After this string of reprieves the home side held out for the win.
Having put themselves into contention for promotion by defeating the two leading candidates this was a major setback because, not only have the top two opened up a ten-point margin, their third place is now under challenge from the chasing mid table pack.
Leading them are this week’s opponents Long Buckby, whose run of five victories has pushed them up to fourth place and, having beaten Saints at home, will no doubt be arriving at John Tomalin Way in confident mood. Having played at their best for only 40 minutes in each of the last two games Saints will need to put in a full 80-minute performance if they are to burst the villagers’ bubble.