Sunday 19th March – Cheshire U20 v Staffordshire @ Stockport
Sunday 9th April – North Mids v Staffordshire
Sunday 23rd April – Staffordshire v Warwickshire @ Newcastle RFC
semi finals – 20 May
final – 3 June
Schedule & Results
Jason Leonard U20 County Championship – Midlands Divisional final
Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire U20 29 v 33 Staffordshire U20
Staffordshire travelled to Derby RFC on Sunday 7th May for the Midlands Divisional Final against NLD who finished second in their pool but had been elevated to winners following East Midland receiving points deductions from the RFU. It was a warm sunny spring day and following the Kings Coronation the day before a Royal battle was expected and duly delivered.
Both teams went through a long and thorough warm up on the fast AGP surface and looked to be ready and up for the contest as they retired to the dressing room ahead of the Kick Off. Referee Rory Fisher from Warwickshire was the man in charge ably supported the two NLD Assistant referees. Staffordshire were out on the pitch first quickly followed by the home side to the applause of both sets of supporters.
Staffordshire fly Half Ollie Rowbery got the game underway with his kick being well fielded by the home side who were immediately awarded a penalty for the visitors not releasing in the tackle allowing them to clear their lines up to halfway.
The next 7 minutes or so saw some end-to-end rugby played at a blistering pace with both sides forwards and backs linking up and showing some great skills in the offload and turnovers. NLD were first to break the deadlock when Staffordshire spilt the ball on the opposition 10m line which was collected and after two quick phases moved it wide to their right winger. He then showed fantastic pace to outstrip the cover defence and a couple of steps took him through the remaining defenders to score under the posts. The conversion was good and NLD Led 7-0.
The visitors were next on the scoresheet following a scrum on the halfway Centre Sam Clarke found a gap before being tackled, the loose pass was collected by Joel Finnemore who moved it on to Will Bailey and then John Carr, whose pass back inside to Bailey saw him over in the left-hand corner. Rowbery added the conversion to level the score at 7-7.
On the 26th minute following a penalty at the scrum NLD kicked to the corner and secured good lineout ball which was released down the backs. A neat cross kick to the corner saw the ball fielded by the hosts right winger and fed back into the supporting player who went over the line. The conversion slid wide NLD 12 Staffs 7.
The home side were then awarded a penalty 25m out just to the left of the posts when the Staffs defence were caught off-side which also slid wide to the relief of the visitors. Staffordshire then had a penalty of there own shortly after the restart and kicked to the corner. From the lineout the visitors quickly recycled the ruck and Tom Gibson took the ball on the charge to crash over the line just to the left of the uprights. The conversion was added to give Staffs the lead 12-14 for the first time in the match.
The lead was short lived as the hosts had the last word in the run up to half time when from a lineout 10m out the big forwards trundled towards the Staffs line with their flanker shearing off the side to go over unopposed in the left-hand corner. The conversion was missed Half Time NLD 17 Staffordshire 14.
NLD returned to the dressing room at Half-Time while Staffordshire remained on the pitch. In a bit of gamesmanship, the hosts used the absolute maximum 10 minutes before returning to the field leaving referee Fisher looking at watch as they emerged. It however seemed to have the opposite affect and Staffordshire came out on fire for the start of the second period. NLD quickly conceded a penalty for offside in the midfield which Staffs kicked to the corner. Half Time replacements Harvey Hughes and Cameron Maughan had come into the pack for Danny Griffin and Ben Clay with Tom Coton moving to hooker and were straight into action in the lineout on the 22 from the kick. The ball was safely caught, and the pack began to trundle towards the home line. As the momentum slowed the ball was moved down the backs to the opposite wing where the winger was brought down before the Staffs forwards recycled the ball and Tom Coton was driven over the line for the next score, the conversion was added NLD 17 Staffordshire 21.
Staffordshire were straight back at it from the restart with firstly Tom Coton and then Tom Gibson breaking tackles and storming up the pitch. Gibson handed the ball off to will Bailey and then Joe Shacklock who was dragged down over the line only to have the ball knocked out of his hand in the tackle for a goal line dropout. Staffordshire fielded the ball well from the dropout and moved it wide to the left wing who was shepherded into touch. The NLD lineout misfunctioned and the visitors secured the ball and drove at the heart of the defence forcing them to concede a penalty 15m out just to the left of the posts. Staffordshire opted not to take the points choosing instead to kick for the corner. The lineout was taken cleanly, and Tom Gibson peeled off the back of the maul to dive over the line for his second try. The conversion slid wide NLD 17 Staffordshire 26.
In what seemed like a game of tennis, NLD were next on the scoresheet, 13 minutes into the half after some good work from the forwards there second row went over in the left-hand corner to secure their 4th try which was not converted to bring the score to NLD 22 Staffordshire 26.
The home side then put together a sustained period of pressure seeing them camped in the Staffordshire 22 with the forwards going through 5 or 6 phases before hooker Tom Coton saw yellow for offside on about the 26th minute of the half. Despite losing a man the visitors managed to repel the onslaught clearing up field and being awarded a penalty which they opted to kick at goal, sadly the attempt drifted wide. Ben Clay came back on to hooker to replace the carded Coton and winger John Carr left the field to accommodate the change. So, when NLD got some good ball in Midfield they moved it quickly left and with the extra man stretching the cover the winger went over in the corner despite the tackle from the Full Back Bob Clews. The conversion was good taking the home side in the lead 29-26.
With only minutes to go Staffordshire knew they had to pull something out of the bag Gregor Hayes came on for Joe Shacklock and Tom Coton’s 10 minutes in the bin ended, Ben Clay leaving the field and John Carr coming back onto the wing. Tom Coton was quickly back into his stride taking a lovely tip pass in midfield and running 50m only to be pulled down agonisingly short of the line. From the ruck the ball was spun out to the winger who was bustled into touch. The NLD lineout again misfunctioned and Callum Oakden stole the ball at the front of the line and the visitors drove for the try line with Rhys Williams emerging with the ball for a well earned try. Rowbery added the extras and the boys in green and white held out for the last 90 seconds with Will Bailey clearing it with the ref that time was up and punting the ball into the crowd.
Final Score NLD 29 Staffordshire 33
Tries: Will Bailey, Tom Gibson (2), Tom Coton, Rhys Williams. Conversions Ollie Rowbery (4)
Staffordshire welcomed local rivals Warwickshire to Lilleshall Road on a very damp Sunday lunchtime. Warwickshire arrived early and were soon out on the pitch checking the conditions. The warm-up was a very wet affair as the heavy showers doused the players and the pitch turning the surface into a very slippery one ahead of the game.
As the spectators braved the weather to line both sides of the pitch the teams came out and thankfully the rain abated. The refereeing team from NLD got the game underway with the hosts kicking off into a slight crosswind deep into the visitor’s half. An early penalty against staffs saw Warwickshire clear their lines early and the stage was set. Both teams showed strong early carries met with strong defence for the next few minutes with little breakthrough from either side. Then, following a scrum on the hosts 10m line, centre Sam Clarke found a gap, stepped and took a diagonal line to outsprint the defence and score in the right-hand corner. Fly half Ollie Rowbery added the extras.
From there Staffordshire continued to dominate the play with the visiting side having to defend for much of the next 10 minutes. On the 15-minute mark Warwickshire were penalised and received a yellow card in their 22 for not releasing. The hosts kicked to the corner for the line out. From the catch and drive Tom Gibson broke down the right side of the maul and popped the ball to hooker Ben Clay who crashed over in the corner, Rowbery again adding the conversion.
The home side spent much of the 2nd quarter in the Warwickshire half and the red and whites were finding it difficult to retain any ball to play with. The next try came from a Staffordshire scrum 10m from the visitor’s line after a prolonged period of pressure. Number 8 Tom Gibson picked up the ball and broke right, the ball recycled for two quick phases before Will Bailey switched the play left and quick hands saw Tobe Okolo unmarked on the left wing to dive in at the corner. The conversion drifted wide.
Warwickshire were struggling to get a foothold in the game and another catch and drive from the line out saw the home pack go over the try line with Rhys Williams emerging with the ball for the try. Rowbery once again added the conversion.
The visitors then began to claw their way back into the game with some basic errors by the home side and far too many penalties Warwickshire started to dominate field position and possession. Spending much of the last 10 minutes of the first period in Staffordshire’s half of the pitch and following a yellow card for Staffs centre Ben Ashmore they finally, on the stroke of half-time, kicked a penalty to the corner. Then followed some great pick and go work from the forwards who were patient until they finally got themselves over the line. The conversion drifted wide. Half Time Staffordshire 26 Warwickshire 5
Warwickshire made several changes at half time to freshen up their side and it certainly appeared to have the desired effect as they dominated the first 15 minutes of the second half. Staffs Winger Tobe Okolo was struggling with his hamstring so was replaced by Bob Clews on 45 minutes.
The visitors were first to strike in the second half when after Prop Edgar Brown received a yellow card for hands in the ruck they kicked to the corner. Staffordshire were caught napping, and the ball was caught cleanly by the Warwickshire 2nd Row who powered over the line unchallenged. The conversion was good bringing Warwickshire up to 12 points.
Cameron Maughan replaced Danny griffin and Joe Murfin came on for Joel Finnemore on the wing around the 70th minute with Hooker Ben Clay replaced by Alex Macdonald shortly after and Tom Coton moving to hooker.
Staffs closed the game out on the 73rd minute after the Warwickshire winger was bundled into touch in his own 22, they took the lineout and set up a catch and drive which saw Prop Rhys Williams claim his second try of the game and Ollie Rowbery his 4th Conversion.
The last 7 minutes saw the remainder of the bench rolled. On came Davison, Hayes and Milan and off went Gibson, Shacklock and Bailey but neither side could breach the others defence and the game ended without further score. Full Time – Staffordshire 33 Warwickshire 12.
Tries; Clarke, Clay, Okolo and Williams (2) Conversions; Rowbery (4)
1 Edgar Brown Burton RFC
2 Ben Clay Burton RFC
3 Rhys Williams Burton RFC
4 Joseph Shacklock Burton RFC
5 Callum Oakden Sandbach RFC
6 Danny Griffin Burton RFC
7 Tom Coton Lichfield RFC
8 Tom Gibson Stoke RFC
9 Will Bailey Newcastle RFC
10 Oliver Rowbery Wolverhampton RFC
11 Tobe Okolo Newcastle RFC
12 Samuel Clarke Stoke RFC
13 Ben Ashmore Lichfield RFC
14 Joel Finnemore Lichfield RFC
15 Alexander Goodyear Newcastle RFC
16 Gregor Hayes Uttoxeter RFC
17 Alexander Macdonald Newcastle RFC
18 Cameron Maughan Burton RFC
19 Anton Davidson Burton RFC
20 James Milan Stafford RFC
21 Joesph Murfin Newcastle RFC
22 Bob Clews Crewe and Nantwich RFC
TR Ollie Platt Stafford RFC
21 Jay Haydock Trentham RFC
Staffordshire travelled down to Dudley Kingswinford RFC on Sunday 9th April 2023 for their first Jason Leonard U20s Championship Game of the season. Old rivals North Midlands had already won their first game against Warwickshire so were looking forward to playing Staffs as the two have not met in the championship for a few seasons. The day was breezy and cool with a few periods of spring sunshine with everything set for a good afternoon of Rugby.
Preparations over, Referee Chris Mulroy and his team from NLD got the game underway in front of a sizeable crowd eager to be entertained. The visitors kicked off and the ball was fielded by the powerful looking North Mids forward who went through the phases moving the ball into the staffs half and putting the boys in green and white under pressure. The first 5 minutes were honours even until the home side spilled the ball which Staffs moved quickly to Centre Ben Ashmore who scythed through the midfield breaking the final tackle to scamper in to the left of the uprights. Fly Half Ollie Rowberry added the extras to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
A prolonged period of Staffordshire pressure followed which the hosts defended valiantly until some quick footwork from scrum half Will Bailey released Jay Haydock down the right wing to score in the corner. The conversion hit the uprights taking the visitors to a 12-0 lead.
NM hit back at the end of the first quarter when staffs defence had got too narrow and the hosts right winger went outside his opposite number to acrobatically dot the ball down in the right corner, the conversion fell short, 12-5.
The second quarter of the game was all Staffs with constant pressure and many turnovers Jay Haydock scored his second down the right wing and first Prop Eddie Brown and then flanker Tom Coton both showing that forwards can score to with some great pick and go and support play. All 3 tries were converted by Ollie Rowberry to bring the half time score to North Mids 5 – Staffordshire 33,
The second half started much as the first had ended with Staffordshire in control and the forwards led by captain Tom Gibson taking control and working the way back up the pitch. Following an infringement by the host the visitors opted for field position kicking to the corner. From good ball at the lineout Staffs drove for the line with hooker Ben Clay finally securing the Try from the ensuing maul. The conversion was good Staffs lead 40 -5.
At this point the Staffs coaching team decided to start rolling the bench replacing Captain Tom Gibson with Alex McDonald and 2nd Row Joe Shacklock with Cam Maughan. Unfortunately this appeared to upset the balance and the home side started to get themselves back in the game scoring 3 unanswered tries in the next 10 minutes 2 from their wingers an one from their No 8 one of which was converted to bring the score back to 40-24 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
On the 60 minute mark further replacements were made with Gregor Hayes replacing Danny Griffen and Bob Clews coming on for Joel Finnemore on the wing. Gregor Hayes ws straight into with some strong carrying in the midfield forcing NM to concede a penalty for tackler not releasing, A quick tap from scrum half Will Bailey saw him dart through the retiring players then accelerate away to score under the posts, giving Rowberry an easy conversion.
Jay Haydock saw his Hat Trick come up shortly afterwards as he found room out on the right wing to finish in the corner, the conversion sliding just wide.
North Mids were not done yet however and some poor communication from the kick off saw the ball find grass and the home sides winger beating all the Staffs players to the bounce and weaving through the defence to score just left of the uprights. The conversion was good.
Staffs rolled the rest of their subs on with Ollie Platt coming in at prop for Eddie Brown, Anton Davidson coming in on the flank with Tom Coton moving to hooker, Ben Clay leaving the field. As play restarted the hosts were reduced to 14 when their No 8 was shown a Yellow card for deliberately slowing the ball down.
The visiting forwards took this as their cue to again rampage up the pitch giving scrum half Will Bailey the platform to dart over for his second try before he retired from the game for James Milan to take over at Scrum Half.
Replacement Prop Ollie Platt caught the ball from the re-start and set off down the pitch but was adjudged to have used his forearm against the opposition tackers neck and saw a Yellow card which he would not return from.
Both sides finished the last few minutes of the game defending resolutely but the visitors finally running out deserved winners at North Midlands U20 31 – Staffordshire U20 57.
Staffordshire next face Warwickshire on Sunday 23rd April 2023 at Newcastle (Staffs) RFC 2.30pm kick off.
Final Score North Midlands U20 31 – Staffordshire U20 57.
Scorers – Tries:- Jay Haydock (3), Will Bailey (2), Ben Ashmore, Eddie Brown, Tom Coton, Ben Clay. Conversions:- Ollie Rowberry (6)