Action-packed 47-28 victory at John Tomalin Way
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Midlands 3 West (South)
Rugby St Andrews 47
Shipston on Stour 28
Saints played their best rugby of the season to inflict a crushing defeat on third-placed Shipston that effectively ended their promotion challenge.
There were the usual enforced changes for this rescheduled fixture. Coaches Craig Jones and Spencer Brown both made their first starts for some weeks. Scott Randall made a welcome first appearance of the season after a long injury lay off and impressed with an imperious display at the line out.
Saints have started strongly in recent weeks but without tangible reward for their dominance. On Saturday there were no such problems when an opening blitz created three converted tries in 15 exhilarating minutes.
Dan Hull opened the floodgates when he finished off a series of forward drives with a powerful surge to the line. A sniping run by Jamie Clynes created space for Ryan Taylor to cross in the corner. Scorer then turned creator when his clever chip allowed winger Ryan Sabin to collect and touch down.
Shipston were awarded a couple of penalties to launch their first significant attack and showed how dangerous they can be, given half a chance, when they scored and converted.
Jamie Clynes limped out of the fray and Ryan Taylor moved into fly half but this did not hinder Saints’ progress as the ball was swung wide to Spencer Brown who ran in untouched from 20 metres.
With the home pack regularly gaining yards with their driving mauls and the backs running excellent lines the Rams were unsure which channel to defend. It was no surprise that they were exposed for a fifth try. Turnover ball was moved swiftly to the left then back infield before another chip was perfectly placed behind the remaining defence where Dan Hull picked up and dived over for his second try.
Now coasting at 31-7 and a four-try bonus secured there was a loss of intensity and feeble tackling allowed Shipston in for their second converted try to close an incident packed half. The Rams were more competitive after the break but never posed any real attacking threat. However it would not be a proper Saints performance without a period when they made life difficult for themselves.
In a repeat of the previous week they contrived to pick up three yellow cards in the even shorter space of five minutes, one for a technical offence at the breakdown and, under the new guidelines, two for high but innocuous tackles. The second of these resulted in a penalty try and the lead was cut to just 10 points.
So yet again they had to survive for a spell with only 12 men and, yet again closed ranks to deny the visitors even a sniff of the whitewash. Playing possession rugby the pack repeatedly drove into their opponents and eventually won a kickable penalty. Ryan Taylor duly obliged and added a second for another red zone offence at a maul.
The Rams hit back with a fine solo effort from 70 metres as Saints failed to make their tackles but then it was business as usual. The visitors again transgressed as they struggled to repel another attack, which cost them three points and a yellow card. A second binning followed for a similar offence. Saints were quick to exploit their advantage. A poor clearance was run back by Ryan Taylor, who exchanged passes with Will Headley to dot down in the corner. The difficult conversion brought his personal tally to 27 points but this was above all a magnificent team performance.
This week they travel to Old Wheatleyans, who are currently uncomfortably close to the relegation zone. Saints won the earlier encounter 58–12 but OWs’ home form is better and they have recently claimed a notable victory over Old Coventrians, who have already done the double over Saints this season. They are clearly capable of upsetting the form book so nothing will be taken for granted.