Pictures by Mike Baker
Midlands 3 West (South)
Rugby St Andrews 53 Woodrush 8
Revenge may be a dish best served cold but Saints opted for the full gourmet menu and gorged themselves with another try feast, leaving Woodrush little more than scraps to console them.
Playing with a level of confidence born of success they overpowered their visitors with an exhibition of relentless attacking rugby.
Whilst the backs thrived on plentiful quality possession and some ill-directed kicking by the Birmingham side it was the forwards who were on hand to deliver the coup de grace for five of the eight tries.
Their support and link work was exemplary, while losing nothing in the hard yards battle with a much heavier pack, where teenager Kyle Smith was prominent with some impressive carries.
Saints have been working hard on an aggressive press defence, which has been effective not only in limiting their opposition’s try scoring opportunities but also forcing handling errors by the pressure they impose on time and space.
During this eight-match winning run they have conceded an average of fewer than eight points per game.
It was just this tactic that generated the first score after just two minutes. Woodrush were pressured into a poor clearance which Saints ran back with interest and forced a penalty.
The kick went to the corner. The line out drive was finished off by Steve Young. The conversion failed but Ryan Taylor was soon on target with a penalty.
Woodrush replied in kind but another wayward kick was punished by a powerful run by Pat Howard, making his first start since returning, who provided the scoring pass to the supporting Ran Scott to run in unchallenged from 20 metres.
There was a brief lull in the scoring before a surge from a lineout was halted illegally and a penalty try was awarded to give Saints a comfortable 22–3 lead.
The half time message to Saints was to up the tempo to secure the try bonus. Woodrush were told to cut out the kicks which had provided Saints classy back three with plenty of chances to counter.
The home side did as instructed but Woodrush found it difficult to comply as they could find few holes in the defensive wall and were left with little option but to boot the ball downfield.
Some strong running and deft offloading by the forwards sucked in the defence before the ball went wide for Will Headley to score. A loss of concentration and discipline produced penalties that finally gave the visitors a sniff at the line.
After a few charges by their big forwards they finally crashed over but from then on they were under non-stop pressure.
Saints brought on what were once termed ‘replacements’ but are now ‘finishers’, all three of whom were happy to respond to the new soubriquet by claiming a try apiece.
Tom Helliwell blasted through the midfield for a typical score.
The second rowers then joined the fun as Scott Randall and Andy Smith went over from close range before a delightful piece of legerdemain by Tom Oglethorpe cut out two defenders to give Arnaud Gautier his first try for the club in the last minute of the game.
Admittedly Woodrush were not at full strength but this was still an excellent victory in terms of tactics and execution.
Significantly, for the first time ever, all of the starting 15 were products of Saints Mini and Junior section, which continues to thrive and supply a steady stream of players via the academy into senior rugby.
With all the major contenders notching bonus point wins there is no change at the top of the table but Saints have significantly increased their points difference tally over their nearest challengers.
There are no league games this Saturday but next week’s fixture could decide the promotion issue when Saints travel to Shipston, who trail them by just five points and will be desperate to erase memories of heavy defeats in the last two encounters between the sides. The team would appreciate maximum support for this crucial game. A team and supporters coach is arranged, departing from the club at 11am, plus a cavalcade of cars leaving around 1.15pm for those unable to make the earlier start.