NORTH MIDS FINALS DAY

NORTH MIDS FINALS DAY

Luctonians 2nd XV vs Bromsgrove RFC
Luctonians 3rd XV vs Bridgnorth Bulls
Sunday 12th May
Match Reports by Simon Green-Price

The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use but there is no one word that could aptly describe the outburst of celebration, emotion and despair that took place as Morris Clementson’s conversion passed through the posts to seal a barely conceivable outcome to a North Midlands Cup Final. As the large crowd of Luctonians players and faithful celebrated, there was palpable despair in the Bromsgrove ranks when their worst fears were realised. A 1stXV side who finished this season in 3rd at Level 5, had been beaten by a 2nd team from 2 levels below. 

The underdogs signalled their intent right from the start when they turned over Bromsgrove’s first attack and handled the ball through 14 phases before losing it inches from the line. A period of Bromsgrove testing the Luctonians defence then followed, with numerous incursions into the 22m but it was the Herefordians who scored first on 20 minutes when hooker, Joel Middleton benefitted from a well driven lineout to dive over. Tyler Morris missed the conversion from 18 metres out to the left. Bromsgrove 1stXV  0-5 Luctonians 2ndXV

This seemed to galvanise Bromsgrove, who for the rest of the half took charge of the territory and in the 34th minute won a penalty which was converted by flyhalf Will Harris, an act that he repeated in the 39th minute from the 10 metre line. Despite lots of ball Bromsgrove were unable to breakdown the well-structured defence that Luctonians 2nds put up and on being awarded a scrum penalty they opted for the 3 points again.

 

 Half time  Bromsgrove 1stXV 9-5 Luctonians 2ndXV

 

Refreshed and tactically refocussed Lucs started the second half on the front foot with Jack Prescott repeatedly carrying hard into the defense. From a resultant ruck, flyhalf Clementson, accelerated through a small gap and beat 3 defenders off his left foot to be brought down 5 metres short. Momentum swings can be quick in keenly contested matches and soon Bromsgrove were attacking deep into the Lucs 22m only to give a penalty away at the breakdown. As the game seesawed with both sides trying to gain meaningful time in the opposition’s territory, Luctonians No.8 Jack Goodwin began to smash through the tackle line giving much needed go forward. It was following one such break where the ref signalled a penalty advantage that Tyler Morris was unlucky not to regain a chip and chase to score under the posts. It was minutes later however, that he added 3 points from a penalty in front of the posts. Bromsgrove 1st XV 9-8 Luctonians 2ndXV

Following the restart Bromsgrove were awarded a penalty which they opted to kick from a long way out. Despite missing they increased their score 5 minutes later with a well taken try in the backs from phase play. The conversion out wide was missed but they had extended their lead to Bromsgrove 1stXV 14-8 Luctonians 2ndXV.   

With both sets of coaches making changes to replace players who were either injured or spent, the game was breaking up and was the perfect time for No. 8 Aiden Chesshire to enter the arena. With no game time this season due to a knee injury, he was unbelievable and showed why he has been so respected in National 2 West over the past few seasons. The momentum he created inspired those around him and soon Lucs were back in charge with a new lease of life. Where Lucs opted to pass the ball and offload in the tackle, Bromsgrove’s appetite to play seemed to have been satiated by the relentless barrage of double tackles and big hits the Level 7 team metered out. There was a slight reprieve in that the men in black and white conceded a number of penalties in quick succession but despite this Bromsgrove were unable to retain vital lineout ball to build any pressure.

It was in the 70th minute and following a Bromsgrove clearing kick that the game exploded, when Lucs centre Gethin Davies received a pass on his own 10 metre line. He took advantage of a dog leg in the defence, accelerated through it and in open space with only the fullback to beat there was only going to be one winner. He touched down in the corner for an unconverted try. Bromsgrove 1stXV 14-13 Luctonians 2ndXV

Bromsgrove were not finished when 6 minutes later the right wing broke through a couple of tackles and ran to into the 22m before offloading to his centre for a well worked try. The conversion was missed but Bromsgrove had retained the lead. Bromsgrove 1stXV 19-13 Luctonians 2ndXV.

With only minutes of the cup tie left Lucs kicked short to the 10m line. Under pressure the Bromsgrove receiver knocked it forward and another was deemed offside and Lucs kicked for the corner. From the resulting lineout Chesshire drove forward and Lucs were awarded another, albeit lucky penalty for a high tackle. From this lineout Lucs got traction and started to move forward. As the black and white army pitchside found their voice, the backs joined in and soon a juggernaut was mauling it’s irrepressible way to the Bromsgrove line where substitute hooker Ethan Allan touched down under a pile of bodies. Bromsgrove 1stXV 19-18 Luctonians 2ndXV

Many finals are dour affairs where neither side wants to make mistakes and where ambition is stunted. Where the gap in Leagues between these two sides meant that Bromsgrove 1stXV had nothing to gain and everything to lose in this encounter, Luctonians 2ndXV could have lost by 10 points but still be seen to have competed. As it was the Herefordshire pitch invasion started before the conversion hit the ground with supporters leaping the barriers like a Grand National field arriving at the first fence. There was chaos but at the heart of it was the quiet 19year old Australian who had coolly kicked Luctonians into the history books, as the first and quite probably the only 2ndXV who will feature as winners on the North Midlands Cup. Bromsgrove 1stXV 19 -20 Luctonians 2ndXV. 

North Midlands Shield Plate Final

Luctonians 3rdXV 22 -10 Bridgnorth 2ndXV (Bulls)

Luctonians 3rdXV also qualified for the North Midlands Finals day in the Shield competition. Having lost to Evesham 1stXV (36-13) and beaten Bromyard 1stXV (33-27) they were drawn against Bridgnorth 2nds (Bulls) in the Plate Final. The sides had played each other in two close League games during the season with Luctonians finishing three positions higher in 5th.

The game was a nervy affair with Luctonians not taking advantage of their fitter and more mobile team on a perfect surface for running rugby. Joe Whitehead opened the Lucs account with a penalty in the 5th minute and it was the increasingly impressive Colts prop, Sam Thomas who barrelled his way over in the 25th minute from a ruck to score the first try. Whitehead converted

Luctonians had plenty of ball and were keen to move it into the wider channels but handling mistakes thwarted their attempts. The Lucs pack worked well in the loose with veteran Trevor Bufton and his second row partner, the giant James Rutherford (joint Players of the Match) making repeatedly big carries into and through the opposition defence and it was Bufton who scored on 55 minutes with an unconverted try.  On 60 minutes Freddie Ralph sliced through the outside backs to make a 50 metre run that climaxed with him stepping the fullback to score and give Whitehead an easy conversion. This was his last act of the game as in a case of mistaken identity he was sent to the bin for another’s high tackle.

Bridgnorth were a big side and Lucs front row of Sam Thomas, Dave Jennings and Tom Sankey did an excellent job in the set piece. It was a first North Midlands Finals win for Luctonians 3rdXV and they played their part in a fantastic day for the club but the 22-19 score flattered Bridgnorth.