Staffordshire travelled down to Broadstreet RFC on a grey Sunday afternoon to take on Warwickshire U20s. Arriving in plenty of time for the game the preparations and warm-up went well and with no issues or injuries the travelling reserves were not required.
Warwickshire started the game strongly and following a penalty for not releasing and then another for offside in the backs kicked to the corner to give them a lineout 5m out from the visitor’s goal line. The ball was caught cleanly, and the home sides big forwards drove to the line to claim their first try which was duly converted.
Minutes later Staffordshire were again caught off-side in the backs and Warwickshire added another 3 points from the boot of their Full Back to put them 10-0 up after only 12 minutes.
Staffordshire re-grouped and started to but some pressure on the opposition creating field position and from a lineout in the hosts 22 after they had kicked out on the full the forwards recycled the ball and the backs moved it down the line. Forwards and backs linked up nicely and when they were held up just short, Scrum Half Will Bailey picked up the ball to dive over in the corner for the visitors first try. The conversion was added by Fly Half Joel Bezus.
The packs then traded tries with Warwickshire scoring first after another misunderstanding in the Staffordshire lineout. The home side quickly moved the ball wide with the winger being tackled just short before the supporting forwards collected the ball and muscled their way over to score a converted try. Staffordshire then started to increase the pressure and were awarded a number of penalties culminating in the Warwickshire prop receiving a yellow card for hands in the ruck. From a lineout 5 metres out, Staffordshire recycled the ball and No 8 Joel Hine crashed over for a try. The Conversion was good. Score 17-14 to Warwickshire.
On the cusp of half time with last play called the visitors retained good ball from a Warwickshire kick off and elected not to end the half but attacked with swift hands down the backs. Full Back Joe Byrne came into the line, outpaced his opposition, and scored in the left-hand corner. The conversion bounced over off the top of the cross bar to give Staffordshire a half time lead of 17-21.
Staffordshire made a few replacements at half time with Segundo Del Olmos coming on in the front row, Sam Lloyd on the flank and Noah Lancelot on the wing.
Both sides struggled to break down the others defence early in the second half, but Warwickshire were first to strike again through some powerful running from the forwards forcing the Staffordshire defence to transgress and receive a yellow card with their fly half adjudged to be not rolling away. They withstood the initial flurry but could only clear up to their 22. From the ensuing lineout Warwickshire dominated the phases before going over for another converted try. Score 24-21.
The arm wrestle continued with both defences working well and preventing the other from breaking through. On the 60-minute mark with Staffordshire on the attack fly-half Joel Bezus put in a cross-field kick which was fumbled by the defence and pounced upon by speedster Noah Lancelot. The referee was unsure but after consulting with his AR awarded Staffordshire the try and the conversion was good. Score 24-28.
In this See-Saw game Warwickshire were next to score when failure to deal with the restart allowed them to recollect their own kick and attack deep into the 22. The visitors defence held strong against the barrage of forward runners but on the 65th minute the hosts were again too powerful around the fringes and powered over the line to score. The full back added the extras. Score 31-28.
Staffordshire were not done yet though. They started to regain dominance in attack but their problems in the line out returned and Warwickshire turned possession over only to kick the ball straight back to the Staffs winger who linked with the full back to take the game back beyond half-way. The forwards secured quick ball at the breakdown, and it was delivered to the Staffordshire fly half to put in a spiral bomb that found grass. Left wing Will Derry was first there to collect the ball and he offloaded to captain Joe Shacklock to charge in at the corner. The conversion slipped wide. Score 31-33.
Warwickshire had the last word however with only minutes to go, after some good phase play in the Staffs 22, one of their big forwards found himself in space on the wing and crashed through the defence to score in the corner. The conversion was missed. Final Score Warwickshire 36-Staffordshire 33.
A great, evenly matched game showing the true spirit of County Rugby and a real credit to all involved. Staffordshire face Buckinghamshire next at Burton RFC on 6th February.
Tries : Will Bailey, Joel Hine, Joe Byrne, Noah Lancelot, Joseph Shacklock Conversions : Joel Bezus (4)