League leaders still unbeaten
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Midlands 1 East
Newbold on Avon 18
Huntingdon & District 17
Another win for Newbold and another week at the top of the table – but another game that so easily could have gone the other way, writes Sean O’Brien.
Both teams were missing frontline players and this contributed to an inability to sustain any real rhythm and continuity.
Let’s first put on record that Newbold played some lovely stuff at times, linking wonderfully.
But worryingly for Bold a trend has firmly set in. We blast out of the blocks early, overpower the opposition to get a healthy early lead.
Half time comes, we lose the plot altogether, and hang on for a narrow win. And Newbold’s supporters get bouts of anxiety.
This trend needs to be reversed quickly if Newbold are to get what their efforts and quality over the last few seasons deserve.
Pat Howard came in at full back for his first start and did well.
Early cut and thrusts were mainly between the two 22 metre lines. The features of this spell were Newbold’s scrum dominance, Huntingdon’s excellent line-out and both side’s willingness and intent to attack in the wide channels.
After fifteen minutes ‘Bold strayed off-side, allowing Huntingdon’s fly half to secure three points from a straight 42 metre kick.
Newbold were getting decent line-out ball from Tom Dixon, which was frequently distributed neatly only for a careless final pass or catch to scupper the move. Infuriating. Luckily Huntingdon were just as wasteful.
Newbold won a lineout on halfway, went right then left, retained possession for four phases, until Huntingdon gave away a penalty; Declan George took a quick tap and fed the ever-alert Phil Reed for a try which Dan O’Brien converted.
Newbold continued to move the ball well before either dropping it or turning it over.
KJ Henry was a nuisance to Huntingdon all afternoon, Kyle Furlong did well to fell Huntingdon’s centres.
Newbold’s forwards made a mess of things on their own 22 metre line, but managed to retain possession; Lloyd Warner went right, O’Brien took it on, fed Ed Scott who then fed Howard who finished the best move of the game. 12-3 to Newbold and there was a feeling that the scores would keep coming.
However, some shocking Newbold defence allowed Huntingdon’s fly half to virtually walk through for a seven-pointer. 12-10.
A KJ kick-chase earned a penalty which O’Brien dispatched. O’Brien then missed one and hit another just before half-time, for an 18-10 lead and quiet confidence.
A disjointed second half by Bold cost them a bonus point, but credit goes to Huntingdon for defending well and coming back at Newbold and threatening to take the spoils.
From a Huntingdon line-out on the right, 35m from Newbold’s try line, their No.8 just ran through Newbold’s statue-like defence unopposed; the conversion made the score 18-17.
Tom Grimmett, Rory Blood and Douza Ziba added some energy, but the errors kept coming.
It’s fair to say that without Newbold’s scrum earning possession galore, Huntingdon would have had sufficient possession to create a winning score.
So, Newbold’s coaches are challenged with reversing the trend of poor second halves; - it’s too simple to just blame fitness but our players do need to cover more ground for longer.
We need to re-learn how to kill games off, how to be ruthless, how to maintain concentration levels and accuracy.
Old Northamptonians are chipping away at Newbold’s lead with bonus point wins most weeks. Exciting stuff though.