Pictures from Saturday’s game at John Tomalin Way
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Midlands 3 West (South)
Rugby St Andrews 32
Boosted by the return of some of last week’s absentees, Saints duly complete the double over durable Woodrush.
A tough forward battle was expected from the improving Birmingham outfit but with Matt Butlin, Kristen Enefer and Grant Taylor resuming their devastating partnership in the back row they were given few opportunities to sustain their attacks.
The return of Matt Rudd to prop and the switch of Ran Scott to hooker not only provided a strong scrummaging base against solid opponents but added two highly effective ball carriers.
The opening exchanges were scrappy with both sides making unforced errors. Despite this, Saints forced their way upfield and Ryan Taylor popped over a penalty.
Woodrush replied with a well taken try when their powerful winger exploited some flimsy tackling to score and unconverted try.
That was the only occasion when they were granted such generosity as their runners were dumped hard and often from then on.
With the wind against them Saints’ plan was to keep the ball in hand but their execution was far from perfect as a number of promising attacks foundered when passes went to ground.
Persistence was rewarded when Spencer Brown received the ball in space and scythed through a scattered defence for a superb individual try, converted by Ryan Taylor.
His second try five minutes later came when he wrong- footed his youthful opponent close to the touchline and then skinned him for pace to open up a 15 -5 lead at the break.
Saints efforts to open up the play were still being frustrated by handling errors and the visitors’ illegal attempts to slow down possession at the breakdown.
A change of tactics paid dividends. Good use of the wind kept Woodrush penned in their own half and Saints’ forwards began to take control with some excellent driving mauls, gaining them 20 or 30 yards at a time.
Woodrush held out until Saints kicked to the corner from yet another penalty. The catch and drive was unstoppable and Ran Scott was the ultimate beneficiary. Ryan Taylor converted.
The tactic was repeated on the opposite touchline and Ran Scott notched his second.
The arrival of Mark Dunkley added to the visitors’ defensive problems. A couple of rumbles set up the position.
The third was halted a yard from the line and. when the ball popped out unexpectedly, Ryan Sabin had the simple task of a pick up and dot down.
It was encouraging to see Saints varying their tactics. Their defence was immense with both forwards and backs making decisive tackles and creating turnovers. Handling was somewhat fallible but, with the pack in overall control, this did not prove too expensive.
This fourth successive win keeps Saints in mid-table but has closed the gap on the two sides immediately above them.
There is no league action for two weeks. They then face a potentially awkward trip to Upton on Severn, which has not been a happy hunting ground in the past.
The Worcestershire side have had a difficult season but have recorded some impressive wins at home.
Saints scrambled a late win at John Tomalin Way and will need to be wary of a side that has shown recent improvement but is still fighting to avoid relegation.