Latest Match Report’s
Sedgley Tigers 23 Rosslyn Park 37
A strong second half performance saved Rosslyn Park’s blushes, after trailing already-relegated Sedgley Park by eight points at the interval. The 4-try bonus point gained sees Park end the season on 100 points and secures them fourth position in the League (barring Old Albanians winning their game in hand by more than 200 points). That is a one-place improvement on last season, and means that Head Coach Jan Bonney, whose last match in charge this was, can leave for pastures new having maintained the club’s upward trajectory.
Park started as if they were determined to end the season on a high. Almost from kick-off they won a penalty which fly half Dan Mugford punted to touch and winger Nev Edwards went very close to scoring before he was bundled into touch. Regaining possession, a try-scoring pass was knocked-on by flanker Ben Lonergan’s outstretched fingertips with the line at his mercy. Skipper Harry Rowland actually crossed the line but was brought back for an earlier knock-on. A super run into the 22 by Edwards brought with it a penalty from which full-back Sam Katz finally put his side ahead on 8 minutes.
However, pretty much the first time Tigers got into Park territory they won a penalty for Matt Riley to equalise on 10 minutes.
Park replied by turning over possession and when Mugford was felled by a high-tackle Katz restored the lead with a further penalty on 12 minutes.
Tigers may have spent most of their time defending, but unlike the visitors when they did attack they made it count. Awarded a scrum inside the Park 22, Tigers’ impressive lock Juan Crous picked up the ball and the only defender – scrum half Matt Heeks – had no chance of stopping the big man from crashing over, Riley adding the conversion for 10-6 to the home side on 15 minutes.
Park replied with another big attack, deep into the home 22 and when awarded another penalty Katz took the 3 points on offer. Park soon had a further penalty, but this time the kick failed to find touch and the home side cleared with compound interest. From a scrum, Edwards set off on a promising run but had to come back due to an earlier forward pass. Heeks attempted a run through the middle but was penalised for not releasing. When a home throw went right over the line-out a promising move was started by Lonergan, driven on by Tom Baldwin and Steve Hamilton very nearly drove over. Park gained a penalty, Mugford took a quick tap and they were off again but a poor pass saw the ball ripped away and home winger Jamie Harrison promptly showed how it’s done as he scorched up the wing and then cut inside to give Riley an easy conversion for an improbable 17-9 on 33 minutes.
Park went back at them and set up a massive attack in the home 22: Baldwin, Ovens, Heeks, McDonald, Rowland, Broughton and Vincent all had individual attempts to get over but with the try looking inevitable they yet again contrived to knock on. The interval came at 17-9 and all Park’s pressure had yielded not a single try.
The home side started the second half strongly, but Park soon wrested back control and hit them with three tries in the space of ten minutes. David Vincent nearly scored, chasing a kick through the middle but unluckily knocked on while attempting to pick up the ball at full speed and full stretch. The home side tried to run the ball out of defence but a smart interception by Hamilton saw him cross the line unopposed, Katz’ conversion taking his side within a point at 17-16. Straight back on the attack, Park won a penalty inside the 22, kicked to touch and drove over from the throw, Lonergan claiming the spoils and Katz converting. The third came with a gift card attached as Vincent latched onto a poor pass for another interception try, and Katz’ kick made it 30-17.
Park went all out for the fourth try that would bring up the bonus point. Vincent made a powerful run. A good move following a lineout saw yet another knock-on. A drive to the line was spoilt by a forward pass. In the end the score came in the simplest of ways, a quick tap penalty by Mugford invited Dom Shabbo to skip in past some poor defending on the right. Katz’ conversion gave his side a winning 37-17 lead with eight minutes left.
Inside the last five minutes the home side gained a penalty inside the 22, took a tap and prop Nick Flynn got over for a consolation try to bring the final score to 37-24. Park will have been pleased to break their losing run away from home and to have given Jan Bonney a win in his final League match with the club.
Park: Katz; Vincent, Broughton, Hamilton, Edwards; Mugford (Shabbo); Heeks; Ovens (Bigley), Graham (Corradi), Ward; McDonald (Boyle), Bowley; Lonergan (Campbell), Rowland, Baldwin.
Park scorers: Hamilton (T), Lonergan (T), Vincent (T), Shabbo (T), Katz (3P, 3C)
Rosslyn Park 34 Blaydon 27
This was anything but a typical end-of-season affair as the third and fourth placed teams provided a bruising contest of strength and skill that was a credit to National 1 rugby. Rosslyn Park won 34-27 to ensure that they will finish the season unbeaten at home, but the two bonus points collected by Blaydon pretty much assured them of finishing in at least third place.
Everyone knows Blaydon’s prime tactic: to get the ball into touch near the goal line and use their powerful, well-drilled pack to drive over. As Park were to discover, knowing what they will do and stopping them from doing it are two completely different propositions.
Park had the better of the first five minutes, but as soon as Blaydon received a penalty the ball was propelled to the corner for their favourite ploy. The home defence dug in and prevented them from crossing the line, but only at the cost of a penalty in front of the posts, which fly half Andrew Baggett gratefully accepted to put the visitors ahead by 3-0.
Park replied with a superb move, centre Paul Mackey making a splendid break through the middle before releasing the ball for winger Nev Edwards to scorch in on 10 minutes. Full-back Sam Katz nailed an excellent conversion for a 7-3 lead.
Park enjoyed a period of dominance in which they could not breach the excellent Blaydon defence, but as the pressure told, penalties in the 22nd, 25th and 28th minutes allowed Katz to stretch his side’s lead to 16-3.
When Blaydon counter attacked, Park looked to have cleared the situation. Dave Vincent ran the ball out of his 22, passed back, but the clearance kick went out on the full to give Blaydon a throw on the edge of the 22. Cue for pack to rumble, and their superbly drilled drive saw flanker Rob Bell touch down for 16-8 on 32 minutes.
The visitors soon showed they were far more than a one-act pony. A superb try from winger Simon Barber, who sprinted up their left wing before lethally cutting inside to score close to the posts, gave Baggett a simple conversion to peg the score back to 16-15 with 5 minutes to the break.
Just as it looked as if half-time would come with the sides almost all square, the irrepressible Edwards found a way to score right on the whistle, chasing a bobbling ball and diving over to touch down in the left corner. The angle defeated even Katz’ conversion attempt, but Park went into the interval with a vital six point lead.
Blaydon started on the attack after the interval. Park defended and cleared well, but when a home throw went over the top of their own lineout Blaydon were back, and won a penalty to set up the inevitable drive. It was a blow to the home side when number 8 Tom Baldwin was yellow-carded for not rolling away, but the referee was trigger-happy (for both sides) at the breakdown all afternoon, so if it was harsh it was at least consistent. Against a reduced pack, Blaydon spurned the three points on offer from the resulting penalty and instead kicked to touch with inevitable results. Bell claimed his second try, but Baggett missed the conversion, so it was now 21-20.
Park did well to compete on equal terms while missing a key player and, restored to full complement, set about building on their advantage. While they could not fully breach the visiting defence, Blaydon were forced to concede another penalty which Katz gratefully accepted for 24-20.
Blaydon returned to the attack, won a penalty and inevitably the ball sailed to the corner. Park resisted the initial drive, but were penalised for their efforts. The visitors opted to scrummage, and when the scrum hit the deck at the first attempt the referee declared Park responsible and awarded the penalty try, which also gave Blaydon a 4-try bonus point. Baggett nailed the simple conversion to put his side ahead at 27-24.
With only ten minutes to save their unbeaten home record, Park gave it everything they had and were soon rewarded with another penalty for Katz to tie up the scores at 27-27.
With only four minutes left, Park’s forwards committed everything to an immense forward drive of their own that had even the Blaydon pack going backwards, almost to their line. When the ball was released and flung wide powerful centre Steve Hamilton came on to it at pace and dived over to score. Katz converted for 34-27.
It wasn’t over yet, as Blaydon searched for the win. Park were penalised, the inevitable kick to the corner was survived at the cost of a repeat, but this time the drive was stopped and Park awarded the scrum. A super break up the left saw Edwards into the 22 and hacking on, but he could not reach his own kick before the ball went out of play over the touchline. Park managed to bundle the visitors into touch before they could build another attack.
A really tightly contested match to bring down the curtain on Park’s unbeaten home season and, if things go to plan, it may be the last 1st XV match played on grass at Roehampton. In the morning, members voted overwhelmingly to back their Management Board’s plans to install a state-of-the-art 4-G artificial surface before next season starts.
Park: Katz, Vincent, Broughton, Mackey (Hamilton), Edwards; Heeks; Mugford; Ovens (Liffchak), Graham, Liffchak (Ward); Bowley, McDonald; Lonergan (Campbell), Rowland, Baldwin.
Sub (did not play): Corradi
Park scorers: Edwards (2T), Hamilton (T), Katz (5P, 2C).
Old Albanians 17 Rosslyn Park 16
Rosslyn Park were the better side in most departments, enjoyed a clear edge in both territory and possession but, to the considerable frustration of a large contingent of travelling supporters, yet again found a way to lose away from home in the final minutes a match that they could and should have won.
The visitors had a distinct edge in the first 10 minutes despite playing into rain, which was swept into their faces by a strong wind. However, Old Albanians’ first concerted attack had Park rocking, and defending against it cost them the services of lock Connor McDonald for 10 minutes. From the ensuing penalty, OA exerted immense pressure which was relieved only by a terrific break by winger Nev Edwards that took his side to within 30 metres of the OA line.
OA were penalised, and then marched back a further 10 metres for arguing. There was no chance of kicking for goal into the wind, so the ball was propelled to touch. A further penalty ensued, which fly half Dan Mugford sent to touch close to the goal line and – still a man short – Park drove OA back over their own line for stand-in skipper Joe Clark (who led by example until injured in the second half) to put his side into a 5-0 lead on 20 minutes. Sam Katz made a valiant attempt to counter the wind with his conversion attempt, but it was still blown wide and was actually travelling backwards before it bounced!
Almost from the restart Edwards made another break, but this time it was the visitors who were penalised, Gregg’s kick going wide of the posts. Almost as soon as Park were restored to full complement, OA made a good counter-attack down their right wing. The initial break was halted, but not before the ball was off-loaded to flanker Brett McNamee who powered over to bring the scores back level on 24 minutes.
The restart kick was brilliantly caught by winger Dave Vincent in full flow, leading to a penalty but Park eventually lost the ball in contact inside the home 22. Another surge by Vincent saw his pass inside knocked on when a score looked likely. But it was OA who bagged the next score. If there was a hint of fortune about how they came to be in possession, then Park had plenty of opportunities to retrieve the situation but poor – or more accurately absent – tackling allowed home fly-half James Shanahan to run in and put his side ahead for the first time. Gregg added the conversion for 12-5.
Park replied with a massive drive into the 22, making drive after drive until spreading the ball to the right but then knocking-on when a try looked inevitable. A promising break by Vincent saw him bundled into touch, but the home side managed to safeguard their 7-point to the interval. But having had the edge in most areas against the elements, the match looked to be Park’s for the taking in the second half.
Park still had more of the ball and, despite frustrating difficulties in retaining it at crucial moments, a score looked inevitable. Connor McDonald skilfully turned over possession deep in OA territory but Edwards was desperately bundled into touch. Eventually OA conceded a penalty for Katz to narrow the gap to 12-8.
Back came Park, pushing OA backwards in the scrum to earn another penalty from which Katz brought his side within a point at 12-11 on 57 minutes.
Some good play following a grubber kick was wasted by the visitors. A big attack again saw them lose control of the ball. Eventually massive pressure yielded a further penalty, Park opted for a scrum and Tom Baldwin – standing in at number 8 for the injured Hugo Ellis – did a good impression of the big man himself in forcing his way over to put Park back in the lead at 66 minutes.
That was the cue for OA – who had frankly been disappointing thus far – to really raise their game, and as the match entered its final phase they began to call the shots. Park conceded a couple of penalties in their own 22 but, with a 4-point lead to overcome, 3 points was no good for OAs so they ran them. With barely 3 minutes remaining they again breached the visiting defence for Shanahan to get over for his second and the winning try to the noisy delight of the home crowd.
Not for the first time Park had allowed an away match to slip from their grasp in the final moments. But it could be argued that the bigger problem was wasting so much good possession by not racking up the points in the opening 70 minutes.
Park: Katz; Vincent, Broughton, Hamilton (Mackey), Edwards; Mugford; Heeks; Liffchak, Clark (Graham), Ward; Bowley, McDonald; Lonergan, Campbell, Baldwin.
Subs (did not play): Kent, Lloyd-Jones, Gash.
Park scorers: Clark (T), Baldwin (T), Katz (2P)
Rosslyn Park 50 Wharfedale 3
National 1 – Saturday 6th April 2013
You could not help but feel sorry for game Wharfedale, who tried everything they knew to fight off the spectre of relegation, but it was nowhere near enough to trouble Rosslyn Park. The home defence was not extended at any stage, and Park scored 50 points without consistently moving up through the gears. The only real question arising from their performance was why they cannot do this sort of thing away from home nowadays?
Wharfedale started brightly, clearly keen to repeat their success earlier in the season, when a string of victories had taken Park to the top of the table only to crash to a surprise defeat on the sloping Threshfields pitch. The visitors won an early penalty, but sliced it. Both sides had promising attacks, but it came as no surprise when it was Park who made one tell after 20 minutes. Awarded a penalty just shy of half way, fly half Mugford belted it to within 10 metres of the Wharfedale line for a line-out. Wharfedale weathered that, but the pressure was now really on and Park produced a superb move across the pitch for winger Nev Edwards to come onto the ball and arc around the defence for a try, converted by full-back Sam Katz.
Park returned to the attack, Wharfedale put together a good counter-move through the middle but were easily stopped. The home side ratcheted up the pressure with a sweeping move into the 22 and, although initially halted, they managed to re-cycle the ball out wide on the right for winger Charles Broughton to get over, Katz nailing a good conversion for 14-0 on 28 minutes.
Another good home attack saw the ball knocked-on just as things were getting interesting. Wharfedale put together a good counter-move on the break to earn a penalty on the edge of the Park 22, and fly half Tom Barrett put his side on the board and back into the match at 14-3 within five minutes of the interval.
Their hopes of a comeback were all but extinguished when a superb run from inside his own half by centre Steve Parsons defied attempts to tackle him and ran the ball to within 12 metres of the visitors’ line. The ball was shipped to the right to giant prop Lorne Ward, and nothing could stop him from going over at that sort of range. A magnificent wide conversion from Katz brought half-time at 21-3.
The Dalesmen were left playing catch-up rugby in the second half, but trying to fling the ball around and to run it only played into Park’s hands, and the second half rapidly became the Dan Mugford Show. Eight minutes into the half Park won a scrum deep into enemy territory and, receiving the ball, Mugford ran a super line to cruise in between the posts to secure the 4-try bonus point and give Katz an easy conversion for 28-3.
The fly half followed this up with a high speed break and, with players outside him, chose instead to pass inside where flanker Luke Campbell galloped over to give Katz an easier conversion. Ironically it was the only kick the full back missed all afternoon, instead hitting the post.
Wharfedale had given everything, but were now out on their feet. Edwards conjured a superb individual try from inside his own half. He looked to have skinned his marker, but stopped momentarily at the next tackler only to accelerate away and sprint to the line. Katz added the extras for 40-3.
Park attacked up the right and the ball was passed inside to Mugford. With nothing looking on he reached into his box of tricks and hit the perfect drop goal for 43-3.
With the clock running down a quick move from Park forced Wharfedale to concede a penalty around half way. It was hammered to the corner for a lineout. When the visitors sinned again the quick thinking Mugford took a quick tap and prop Will Bigley was forced over. When Katz’ conversion bisected the posts to bring up the 50, the referee blew for time marginally early.
Park will take no pleasure in having hammered a further nail into the coffin of the relegation troubles of a club with whom they enjoy the friendliest of relationships. But there was a job to be done, and no one could argue but that Park did it.
Rosslyn Park: Katz; Broughton, Parsons, Mackey (Hamilton), Edwards; Mugford; Heeks (Grant); Bigley, McGrath (Clark), Ward (Graham); Bowley, McDonald; Baldwin, Campbell, Rowland (Lloyd-Jones).
Park scorers: Edwards (2T), Broughton (T), Ward (T), Mugford (T, DG, 6C), Campbell (T).
Rosslyn Park 29 Blackheath 9
Saturday 23rd March 2013
Both sides deserve great credit for providing a compelling spectacle in such atrocious conditions, muddy and slippery under-foot with driving snow on an icy breeze. In the circumstances some of the handling was really quite exceptional, and Park will be delighted to have fashioned the four tries they needed for the crucial bonus point.
Rosslyn Park took the match to Blackheath from the start with an impressive move, spoilt only by the sort of knock-on that is inevitable in these conditions. However, they did not have to wait long to get on the scoreboard. Winning a scrum on the left, they moved the ball across the field, stretching the visitors’ defence, and right-wing Charles Broughton proved unstoppable. Full-back Sam Katz’ conversion made it 7-0 on five minutes.
Blackheath, having the worse of the conditions with the snow blowing into their faces, showed that they had not come to make a present of the match. While they could not match some of Park’s slicker movements, they were competing on level terms and a couple of Rory Teague penalties in the 9th and 18th minutes saw them creeping up on their hosts.
Park seemed to have established a degree of dominance up front and drove to the Blackheath line and, despite some doughty defending, eventually flanker Tom Baldwin was able to rise from the melee with the ball and twist his way over the line, Katz adding the extras for 14-6 on 22 minutes.
Park swept back onto the attack, driving forward to gain a penalty which fly half Dan Mugford kicked to touch to maintain the pressure. Relief came for Blackheath when Park were eventually penalised, though the visitors were perhaps a bit fortunate that the touch judge failed to spot a fairly blatant punch to the face in the ensuing scrap: it was more frustration than malice aforethought, but would at the very least have seen the penalty reversed.
Park were able to force a further penalty, gratefully snapped up by Katz, to stretch the lead to 17-6 at the interval, which was possibly a slimmer lead than his side would have hoped for in all the circumstances.
Park had a chance to gain the first score of the second half, gaining a long-distance penalty, but Katz’ kick could not compete with the wind which stopped it in mid arc, then blew it harmlessly wide. A drive forward drew a further penalty, which this time the home side opted to take as a scrum but Blackheath held firm.
There were frequent outbreaks of exchanging clearance kicks, which made some sense from a Blackheath perspective as Park had difficulty clearing their lines any distance against the wind, and Blackheath were unable to make much impression on the home defence when attacking ball-in-hand.
A glimmer of hope beckoned for the visitors when replacement fly half David Dunne slotted over a penalty with just over 15 minutes remaining to take the scores to 17-9. But Park soon snuffed it out with the try of the match started deep in his own half by winger Nev Edwards who made ground up his wing before passing inside to centre Paul Mackey, who returned the compliment to put Edwards in a straight one-on-one and a sprint to the corner. Katz added an excellent conversion for 24-9.
As the clock wound down, Park brought on replacement Luke Campbell and the flanker had an immediate and electrifying impact, seizing a loose ball with his first touch and marauding upfield at high speed, defying tacklers. When the way ahead was effectively barred to him he offloaded to provide Broughton with his second try of the match, which also brought the bonus point that Rosslyn Park needed.
Blackheath managed a last gasp attack, which yielded a penalty that was kicked to touch for the catch-and-drive, but when Park intercepted Baldwin lashed the ball out, over the club shop and in the general direction of Sheen to claim victory. In the conditions it was a remarkably contested Local Derby, for which thanks to both sides.
Park: Katz; Broughton, Parsons, Mackey, Edwards; Mugford; Heeks (Grant); Ovens, Clark, Liffchak; Bowley, Boyle; Baldwin (Ball), Rowland (Campbell), Ellis.
Park subs (did not play): Bigley, McGrath
Park scorers: Broughton (2T), Baldwin (T), Edwards (T), Katz (P, 3C)
Loughborough Students 36 Rosslyn Park 35
A thrilling match for Loughborough fans and neutrals, but one of immense frustration for the Park faithful who watched their team carelessly throw away a match that they could, and should, have won at a canter.
The initial stages were all Rosslyn Park, playing down the slope but into a blustering diagonal wind. Some superb inter-passing – exceptional in the wet, muddy conditions – saw them stopped illegally for a penalty in front of the posts 30 metres out. Normally such a kick would be meat and drink to fly half Ross Laidlaw, but he missed this one.
Undeterred, Park returned to the attack with another superb slick passing movement, but the hazards of playing fast and loose were cruelly exposed as a pass went straight to Loughborough scrum half Jordan Brookes who, from inside his own 22, simply sprinted the length of the field to score under the posts, leaving fly half Andy Hall to put his side 7-0 up despite having hardly seen the ball.
Park replied with another sweeping move, full-back Ed Lewis-Pratt making a good run before releasing winger Charles Broughton who was only stopped just short of the try-line. The students were under immense pressure, which cost them a yellow card in order to stop the move. Park opted to scrummage when awarded a penalty, which was re-set when they re-offended, but Park contrived to concede a penalty to allow the students to clear.
Respite was only temporary for Loughborough, as Broughton again attacked down the right and, as the ball was swept inside and across there seemed to be any number of Park players who might have made the decisive move, and when it eventually reached Hugo Ellis there was an air of “Look, lads, it really isn’t that difficult” as he touched down. Laidlaw’s conversion brought the scores back level.
Park were sweeping back onto the attack with some more clever inter-passing when a careless pass glanced off the recipient’s unprepared arm, straight into those of home fly half, Hall, who simply ran out of his own half to score between the posts, giving himself an easy conversion. To concede one breakaway may be unfortunate; to concede two looks somewhat careless. The visitors then compounded their misery by conceding a penalty for Hall to increase the home advantage to 17-7.
Despite the 10-point margin, Park still enjoyed a considerable advantage in terms of possession and territory, and their pack was beginning to assert itself. An immense drive by the pack was wasted by knocking on. Smart work by scrum half Jack Gash regained the initiative and Park won a penalty, kicked to the corner. From the lineout Park drove to the line, but such was the pile of players that the referee could not possibly see whether the ball had been fairly grounded. Loughborough’s relief was short-lived. They simply could not cope with Park’s rampant scrum and after a couple of penalties and resets the referee awarded the inevitable penalty try, Laidlaw converting for 17-14.
However, instead of building up a head of steam to win the match, the Rosslyn Park gift store again opened its friendly doors. Loughborough centre Courtenay Morrison launched a run up the left wing which probably would not have heralded too much danger had anyone thought to tackle him. But they didn’t. He galloped round an outstretched arm from the stationary position, apparently the best effort Park could muster, and scored to increase the lead to 22-14.
Back on the attack, Park caught the home side offside to gain a penalty 30 metres out but, again, Laidlaw suffered a rare radar malfunction. Back on the attack, Park produced another stunning passing movement and had the defence reeling under pressure for Paul Mackey to record a good try, converted by Laidlaw, to send them into the interval a single point in arrears at 22-21. Truth be told, though, but for their own profligacy in spurning their own opportunities and gifting tries to the opposition, Park could easily have been sitting on a 20 point advantage.
Park started the second half with a superb clearance kick from Broughton that found touch deep in enemy territory. Ellis was unlucky, popping up on the left, when his grubber kick went out of play rather than beyond the try-line. A forward drive looked very promising, but when the ball was spread Loughborough managed to turn over possession. A further chance went begging when the ball was spilt forward. Eventually, with his side camped on the line, flanker Tom Baldwin, forced the ball down to put his side ahead for the first time, Laidlaw’s conversion made it 28-22.
Park looked to have made it safe when some good work by centre Steve Parsons sent in winger Dom Shabbo, Laidlaw’s conversion bringing up 35-22 for an apparently safe position. It was in adversity that we saw the best in Loughborough, as they gave everything to secure at least a losing bonus point. Their strong, direct running forced Park to make their tackles but with about five minutes left a 13 point cushion looked to be plenty.
However, Park unexpectedly adopted the ‘Polo’ defensive formation (the one with a hole in the middle). Loughborough’s excellent flanker, Joe Atkinson, got the ball in the centre of the field, forty metres from the try-line and realised that there was no one in front of him, so he sprinted through to score under the posts, untouched. The conversion pegged it back to 35-29 and really lit the blue touch-paper for the students. They threw everything at Park, who were thrown onto desperate defence. Into the final moments, centre George Eastwell nearly made the line, was tackled but managed to offload to Atkinson who went over unchallenged by the posts to set up a simple conversion for replacement kicker Craig Holland to win the match. For the remaining seconds, there was no ‘Fancy Dan’ play for Loughborough – they held the ball tightly and hoofed it out of play as soon as time was up.
Although clearly out-gunned for much of the game, they deserved their win for their indomitable spirit and the fact that they seemed to want it more than did Rosslyn Park. Park did put together some excellent passages of play, but their management of a game in which they held most of the aces was really very poor.
Park: Lewis-Pratt; Broughton, Parsons, Mackey, Shabbo; Laidlaw; Gash; Bigley (Ward), McGrath (Clark), Liffchak; Bowley, Boyle; Baldwin (Bloxham), Lonergan (Ball), Ellis.
Sub not used: Grant
Park scorers: Ellis (T), Mackey (T), Baldwin (T), Shabbo (T), Laidlaw (5C), Penalty try
Fylde 35 Rosslyn Park 10
It all looked good for Park after the initial midfield sparring; a good move yielded an attacking line-out and Hugo Ellis coasted in from the left past some almost non-existent defending, Ross Laidlaw slotted home the conversion for 7-0 on 9 minutes. The visitors set up another good chance, Fylde were penalised, marched back 10 metres for arguing, and the match looked Park’s for the taking as they made their tackles and looked to have built a firm base.
Fylde had other ideas and, always dangerous when in possession, launched a blistering counter-attack. Park defended well and turned over possession, but when the home side regained the ball a slick move down the right saw winger Ben Rath go over on 21 minutes for 7-5. This was all the encouragement they needed and barely 5 minutes later prop Peter Altham made ground to feed prop Gareth Rawlings to go over from close to the line to put his side ahead for the first time.
Park initially steadied the ship, but were not helped by their own errors, twice the most basic handling errors lost them the ball when in good field position. But a good attacking move saw them force a penalty and up stepped Laidlaw to equalise at 10-10 with 10 minutes to the interval.
Just as it looked as if the two teams would finish the half all square, Fylde gained a penalty of their own for fly half Chris Johnson to kick them to a 13-10 lead, but it looked for all the world as if Park could still prevail if they could just cut out the basic errors.
Whatever was said in the Fylde dressing room, they certainly came out fired up after the interval and soon won another penalty for Johnson to increase their lead.
Park were far from out of the match, though, but spoiled a very good chance with a knock on and fumbled another. Twice Fylde were penalised in dangerous positions to allow Laidlaw to fire the ball to the touchline inside the home 22, but both times Park failed to retain possession of their own line-out ball. A third penalty saw Laidlaw have a pop at goal from a position that he would be relied upon to score nine times out of ten, but this was the tenth time.
With an hour gone home left winger Ollie Brennan seized upon a loose ball from a missed catch and, aided by some distinctly poor defensive work, eventually offloaded to Johnson who coasted in unchallenged, but could not convert his own try.
With a 21-10 lead, Fylde were now throwing the ball around and running with it as if the game was huge fun. Park began to look stereotyped and as if their trip to the seaside was anything but a pleasure. There was no doubting individual effort, but collectively they appeared to run out of ideas, or at least ones they could execute without mistakes.
Any faint hopes they may have held of a late come-back were extinguished when home scrum half Martin Wallwork took advantage of further poor defending to dart in and Johnson’s conversion took the score to 28-10. Things got worse for Park when Dom Shabbo was yellow carded.
With Park short-handed, Fylde exploited the open space with a crossfield kick that found Brennan with plenty of room to score with less than a minute to go after the conversion had made it 35-10. However, that was still time for Hugo Ellis’ frustrations to see him join his team-mate in the sinbin to leave Park with only 13 players, who still managed to summon up enough of an argument to get marched back 10 metres.
It really was not Park’s finest afternoon. What had started out looking distinctly promising ended up being, frankly, something of a shambles. These things happen, but Park really need to shake themselves up before next Saturday if a season of so much success and excellent play is not to end with a tinge of disappointment.
Park: Mugford (Katz); Broughton, Parsons, Mackey, Shabbo; Laidlaw; Heeks; Ovens (Liffchak), Clark (McGrath), Liffchak (Ward); Bowley, McDonald (Ball); Baldwin, Rowland, Ellis.
Park scorers: Ellis (T), Laidlaw (P, C)
Sub (did not play): Gash
Rosslyn Park 28 Richmond 20
A pulsating local Derby ended in a 28-20 win for Rosslyn Park, but there was enough here to have both sets of supporters biting their nails. Park had most of the early play, but were twice penalised for ‘not releasing’ when a score looked possible. Richmond looked potentially dangerous ball in hand, but Park’s speed to the tackle was excellent and pinned the visitors in their own half for the first five minutes. When they did engineer an escape route, though, they gained a penalty just outside the 22 from which full-back Tom Platt made no mistake to put his side 3-0 ahead.
Park replied with a big attack from the restart and Richmond were eventually forced to concede a penalty, allowing the home side to equalise through fly half Ross Laidlaw. Park soon dominated proceedings, but some well-organised and committed Richmond defending – allied to Park’s own errors when close to the try line – kept them in check. There was a long delay for an injury which saw Richmond lose their scrum half Robbie Shaw, which hardly helped their cause.
A very good move saw the home side almost score, only to knock-on at the vital moment. Further home pressure saw a horribly sliced clearance give Park an attacking line-out inside the Richmond 22, only for the throw to miss its target. Eventually Richmond had to concede a penalty, out wide. Laidlaw made it look routine to put his side ahead for the first time at 6-3 on 24 minutes.
A further penalty in a similar position was hoofed to touch inside the visiting 22, but again Park could not win their own ball at the line-out. Charles Broughton made a tremendous dash from the wing but was pinged for not releasing. Laidlaw was given a slight chance from a long range penalty, but narrowly missed. Park forced another line-out, set up a drive but conceded a penalty close to the line. A superb run by Nev Edwards, combining with David Vincent very nearly bore fruit but the Richmond defence rarely put a foot out of place and tackled ferociously.
When Park eventually did manage to drive over it was such a mangled mass of bodies that the referee could not possibly see whether or not the ball had been touched down. From the subsequent 5 metre scrum the visitors were under immense pressure and replacement scrum half Henry Taylor had to resort to extra-legal methods to prevent the score, leaving the referee little alternative but to show the yellow card. Park opted to re-set the scrum and Hugo Ellis picked up the ball at the back and got over the line for a classic ‘number 8’ try. Laidlaw converted for 13-3, deep into first half injury time.
Whether Park’s minds were on the half-time cuppa or whatever, they still had time to concede a penalty from which Platt kicked Richmond to 13-6 at the interview, and his team must have been highly delighted to be only a converted try down having been pretty emphatically out-played thus far.
Park started the second period by gifting the visitors good field position with one of those “After you”, “No after you” moments where neither player actually catches the ball from kick off. But the visitors were unable to exploit the situation, and eventually Park nearly scored on the break, but again were penalised as the line beckoned. Fifteen minutes into the half Park did breach the visiting defence following a set piece and a move up the right, and when the ball was moved inside centre Steve Parsons spotted a gap and coasted through unmolested, Laidlaw converting for 20-6.
That should have broken Richmond’s resistance, but they were made of sterner stuff and, whilst they never really had a period of sustained pressure, they proved deadly on the counter attack. When they turned over possession five minutes later a slick move up the right saw the ball passed inside for centre Matt Keville to finish off, with Platt’s conversion bringing his side again within a score at 20-13.
If there was an element of fortune about how Hugo Ellis came to gain possession of the ball for Park’s try in reply to that, then the execution was still superb as he showed remarkable pace for a big man and, while he probably could have barged over the line himself, showed great awareness and unselfishness in off-loading to give the try to Steve Parsons who went in unchallenged for his second. Laidlaw’s conversion attempt narrowly missed, but at 25-13 with less than 15 minutes remaining it looked as if Park could concentrate on the 4-try bonus point they needed.
Richmond had other ideas, and again proved devastating on the counter-attack, quickly using turned-over possession to launch a rapier attack up the right that saw replacement Harrison Edwards score. When Platt’s conversion went over after 71 minutes then, for all Park’s apparent superiority, there were still only 5 points to show for it. Park surged back and forced a penalty, which Laidlaw slotted over to put the win itself beyond doubt at 28-20.
Park again set about grabbing the further try they needed for a vital bonus point, forcing a penalty deep in Richmond territory which was kicked to touch for a lineout. As Park surged forward, the visitors were again forced to concede a penalty which was again hoofed to touch. This time, however, Park lost the ball and Richmond launched another devastating counter-attack, now up the left. Park had the numbers back to defend and the ball was eventually knocked on anyway, but it was quite an end to a spirited Local Derby.
It was a pity both sides ended up in their own ways disappointed: Richmond will doubtless feel they deserved a losing bonus point, while Park will wonder how they had so much possession but failed to grab a 4-try bonus. The answer to both probably lies in their opponents’ excellent defences.
Park: Edwards; Broughton, Parsons, Mackey, Vincent; Laidlaw; Heeks (Gash); Bigley (Ward), McGrath (Clark), Liffchak; Bowley, Boyle (McDonald); Baldwin (Campbell), Rowland, Ellis.
Park scorers: Parsons (2T), Ellis (T), Laidlaw (3P, 2C).
Tynedale 38 Rosslyn Park 34
Rosslyn Park must be wondering how they came to lose a match that they could – and should – easily have won. Their pack was by far the stronger, but their old propensity to concede penalties at vital moments returned to haunt them which, along with crucial handling errors and some rank bad defending, effectively handed the match to a spirited Tynedale side.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall in the first 10 minutes. Tynedale opened with a good move through several hands and full back Chris Harris waltzed in to put the home side ahead in less than a minute. A good try, but from Park’s point of view where were the tacklers? Fly half Matty Ouston converted for 7-0. The visitors replied with two impressive attacks, and when they spoilt one with a knock-on the forwards asserted a clear superiority by shoving Tynedale backwards over their own ball. Another scything attack through the middle nearly brought reward, but Park conceded a penalty when it might have been easier to score. Despite a period of clear superiority, it was the visitors who blinked first, conceding a penalty on their own 10 metre line and up stepped Ouston for 10-0.
That was avenged only a minute later when centre Steve Parsons picked up the ball just outside the home 22 and went through the defence like a knife through butter, Sam Katz adding a conversion for 10-7. It really didn’t look too difficult.
That should have steadied Park on a winning course, but Tynedale had other ideas. Speedy winger Alex Fieldhouse made a run up the right and, with nothing else on, simply chipped ahead and won the race to the line. A good try, though not necessarily from a defender’s perspective.
Again, Park swarmed up-field and charged down an attempted clearance to win an attacking lineout inside the home 22 after which the home forwards were pushed off their own ball and the visiting pack eventually drove over for Luke Campbell to score. Katz’ conversion attempt hit the post, but Park were back in it at 15-12 on 26 minutes.
When Park had another attacking line-out they were pinged for a crooked throw, but again the home pack were pushed off their own ball at the scrum. Park were unable to press home their advantage. When the home side countered they were initially ‘pinged’ for crossing, but on the (correct) intervention of the touch judge the decision was reversed for a high tackle and Outson slotted over the kick for 18-12.
Two minutes later Park took careful aim and shot themselves in the foot. Another attack saw them spreading the ball across the field near the home 22 only for Fieldhouse to bag the simplest of interceptions, sprint up-field and score by the posts just 5 minutes before the interval. Outson’s simple conversion made it 25-12.
Park set urgently about repairing the damage. Again, they shoved Tynedale backwards but, again, they frustratingly conceded a penalty when looking likely to score. It was eventually a piece of individual brilliance by fly half Katz that brought his side back into it, receiving the ball in a position of no apparent danger outside the 22 and running a couple of brilliant angles to score in the corner. He then capped it by nailing an outstanding conversion kick for 25-19 at the interval.
There was no doubting Park’s intentions at the start of the second half. A charge down the left wing by Hugo Ellis saw him kick ahead and be first to the ball to score an early try and give his side the 4-try bonus point. Another fine conversion by Katz put Park in the lead for the first time at 26-25, and even the most ardent home fan must have feared that the visitors would now pull away.
Another attack was halted as Park found themselves penalised. Then they won a kickable penalty which Katz hoisted to inside the 22 to set up another drive; scrum half Callum Grant tried to get over from the back of a ruck, then there were pick and drives from Ward, Boyle and Bowley but yet again Park got themselves penalised when in a position to score. Back on the attack, David Vincent and Harry Rowlands combined to send Ellis in for his second try to stretch the lead to 31-25 on 56 minutes. But Tynedale were allowed back into the game when some distinctly sleepy defending allowed winger Hamish Smales to nip around the outside to close the scores to 31-30.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Park conceded another penalty that allowed replacement George Cullen to kick his side back into the lead at 33-31.Park again attacked, but again lost control of the ball just as things were getting interesting. With just two minutes remaining they forced a penalty and Katz again produced the goods to snatch back the lead at 34-33, and that looked to be that.
Tynedale had one more roll of the dice and two minutes into injury time took advantage of an absence of tackles for replacement fly half Tom Bramwell to go in by the posts for the winning try with the last move of the match. Your reporter is fairly convinced that a study of the video will show a foot in touch in the build up to the try, but that is not an excuse for the absence of tackling. The muffed conversion attempt did not matter as the referee blew for time. If this was a match Park should have won, then credit must go to a smart and committed Tynedale side who, despite not having any period of really sustained pressure, were good enough and sharp enough to take their chances and capitalise on them. It’s the final score that matters.
Park: Edwards (Shabbo); Broughton, Parsons, Hamilton, Vincent; Katz; Grant (Gash); Ovens (Bigley), McGrath, Ward; Bowley, Boyle (McDonald); Rowland, Campbell, Ellis.
Sub not used: Graham
Park scorers: Ellis (2T), Parsons, Campbell, Katz (T, P, 3C).
Coventry 3 – Rosslyn Park 16
Saturday 9th February 2013
Early morning snow on the pitch together with a couple of hours of heavy rain had produced quite a mud bath for Park’s visit to old rivals Coventry.
Park had several changes from the side that had scored 150 points in their last two matches including the absence of Neville Edwards and Mathew Heeks who played on Friday evening for English Counties against their Irish counterparts in Cork. The England coach, our own Jan Bonney, showed great devotion to duty by being at Coventry helped by an early morning flight from Ireland.
Showing good tactical awareness and sterling defensive work Rosslyn Park enjoyed good control for most of the first half. Only when Laurence Ovens and Lorne Ward were yellow carded- Laurence for trying to persuade an opponent that lieing on the wrong side of the ball was not a good idea and Lorne for a seemingly innocuous offence that only the referee deemed to be anything out of the ordinary- did the home side exert any pressure. Even though for some time with only 13 men the magnificent Park defence was not breached.
Despite their territorial and possession advantages though Park were only 3 – 0 up at the interval through a penalty from Sam Katz early in the half. Their usually fleet footed and high scoring back line being held in check by dogged Coventry defence and cloying underfoot conditions.
It came as something of a shock to everyone when in the first minute of the second half Dan Campbell handled in a ruck and the penalty was scored bringing the home side level. Boosted by this, and urged on by the home crowd, ‘Cov’ did have ten minutes of pressure but their continued profligate kicking and poor handling enabled Park to weather the storm.
Gradually Park resumed their overall control. Katz went close with an excellent attempt at a longish penalty and then 15 minutes into the half came the decisive score. A brilliant, extended rolling maul from the pack enabled Dan Campbell to score a try which Sam Katz converted. Katz then added further penalties in 28th and 36th minutes to underline their superiority and secure a well deserved win.
Both sides should be congratulated on their magnificent way in which they kept going in such difficult conditions.
Rosslyn Park: S.Hamilton; C.Broughton, P.Mackey, S.Parsons, D.Vincent; S.Katz, C.Grant; L.Ovens, C.McGrath, A.Liffchak; W.Bowley, R.Boyle; H.Rowland (Capt), L.Campbell, H.Ellis. Replacements( all of whom played) : L.Ward, J.Graham, C.McDonald, J.Gash, R.Lane.
Park scorers: D.Campbell (1 Try); S.Katz (1 Conversion and 3 Penalties)
Rosslyn Park 46 Macclesfield 10
While the result of this match was never in any doubt, Macclesfield were never far behind Rosslyn Park in terms of possession. The big difference was what each side did with the ball when they had it. The visitors encountered a solid defensive wall whenever they attacked whereas Park – often off turned-over possession – were simply lethal with ball in hand.
The early stages were all Park. Good runs by Steve Parsons and Charles Broughton came to nothing. A terrific run from full-back Nev Edwards ended with his side penalised for not releasing. Enjoying a penalty advantage, an audacious long kick to the right wing for Broughton to run onto nearly came off, but play was brought back for fly half Sam Katz to kick his team to a 3-0 lead on 10 minutes.
If Macclesfield did not look like breaching Park’s solid defence, they were certainly good enough to spoil Park’s own early efforts, but were undone by a superb move. Edwards flung a wide pass to winger David Vincent inside his own 22, for him to fly up his wing and, when he was stopped, there was Edwards in support. He was stopped almost on the line but powerful Hugo Ellis could not be prevented from getting over. The angle was too fine for Katz’ conversion, but it was 8-0 on 18 minutes.
Ellis briefly turned villain when blatantly offside in his own 22. The visitors turned down an almost certain 3 points to kick to the corner, but simply could not find a way through. When Park broke out, a tackle – the clumsiness of which probably made it look worse than it was – saw visiting flanker David Marwick sent to the bin. The penalty was kicked to touch for a line-out inside the 22, and as the ball was worked across the field, centre Paul Mackey came onto it, sold a dummy and went over for 15-0 after Katz had added the conversion.
From the kick off, the visitors enjoyed their best period of pressure, camped inside the Park 22 for fully 5 minutes. Twice more they spurned kickable penalties to gain attacking line-outs, but they simply could not crack a superbly drilled defence. Eventually Edwards broke out for Park, and only a penalty for ‘not releasing’ prevented a likely score.
The second half was barely a minute old when Edwards put in a superb run up the wing from deep in his own half, found Vincent in support and, whilst the defence managed to stop the winger just short of the line, tireless flanker Luke Campbell was on the spot to get over for a try that his efforts richly deserved.
Campbell followed up with a powerful sprint through the middle, eventually finding centre Parsons in support at a distance from which he is simply unstoppable to register the bonus point try. Another Katz conversion made it 27-0.
Park’s tails were well and truly up. A super run by Broughton went right to the heart of the Macclesfield defence. They weathered that storm, but when lock Richard Boyle powered through to pass on to skipper Harry Rowland they had no answer, Katz’ conversion taking the score to 34-0.
The visitors never gave up, and few begrudged them the try when a scrum near the Park line saw replacement George Baxter skip round it to snipe a try for 34-5.
With less than 20 minutes to go Park made multiple substitutions (including Edwards and scrum half Matt Heeks, who are due to wear England jerseys in Cork this Friday) but it did not stop the wave of home attacks. Callum Grant tried to announce his arrival at scrum half by darting and dummying his way over from close to the posts, but it led instead to Park being pinged for not releasing. Steve Hamilton, in the unfamiliar role of full back, soon had his side back on the attack, making a run that set up Steve Parsons to go over for 39-5.
Macclesfield saw a glimmer of light when Park were reduced to 14 men after a high tackle by Richard Boyle (it didn’t look deliberate but if you’re as tall as he is it is probably an occupational hazard). It became clear that it was not Macc’s afternoon when almost straight away an attempted clearance kick thumped into a colleague and it looped back behind the kicker, where Vincent had just picked himself up – yards offside if his own player had kicked it – and found the ball in his hands with no one to beat. He went behind the posts to give Katz an easy conversion.
Macclesfield pluckily got up-field and centre Elliot Brierly got over for a try to the right of the posts. When the conversion missed, with Siberian winds blowing and England about to kick off on the Clubhouse TV the referee blew for time a few moments early. He barely got a decision wrong all afternoon.
Park: Edwards (Hamilton); Broughton, Parsons, Mackey, Vincent; Katz; Heeks (Grant);Ovens (Bigley), Clark (Graham), Ward; Bowley, Boyle; Rowland, Campbell, Ellis (McDonald).
Park scorers: Parsons (2T), Ellis (T), Mackey (T), Campbell (T), Rowland (T), Vincent (T), Katz (P, 4C)
Rosslyn Park 104 Cambridge 5
Park tore up the record books on Saturday with an awe-inspiring display of committed running rugby and sheer physical power. Poor Cambridge were simply swept aside, wreckage floating on a flood-tide of red-and-white shirts, as Park racked up the highest score in their distinguished 133 year history.
The writing was on the wall in the very first minute when full-back Nev Edwards sent winger Charles Broughton away to score in the corner, fly half Sam Katz converting for 7-0. Park were soon pressing again, a good move ending with the ball spilled. The home forwards had a clear edge in strength and power and nearly sent Ellis in but for a knock on, but the visitors simply could not resist and number 8 Hugo Ellis crashed over in the corner for 12-0 on 11 minutes, the first of his personal 7-try haul.
Three minutes later and it was Broughton in again, Katz converting for 19-0. Then the ever-dangerous Broughton again made good ground, and a fine angled run from Katz brought a penalty. Park opted for the scrum and drove over for Ellis to touch down for the 4-try bonus at 24-0 after only 18 minutes. Had it been a boxing match the referee would probably have intervened there and then to save Cambridge from further punishment such was the apparent gulf between the two sides.
A great move involving Ellis and Edwards saw scrum half Matt Heeks go in three minutes later, Katz nailing a good conversion for 31-0. Park swept back onto the attack and caught Cambridge offside in their own 22. Opting for the scrum, Park twice drove the visitors back at speed, only to be stopped by an illegal intervention. The referee had little alternative but to send visiting prop James Palmer to the sin bin and Park drove over the reset scrummage as if unopposed, giving Ellis his hat-trick after only 28 minutes and bringing up 38-0 after Katz’s conversion.
There was no letting up as four minutes later the giant number 8 powered over to grab his fourth, Katz again adding the extras for 45-0. A super break by flanker Luke Campbell brought no reward when the ball was knocked-on, but Park simply out-powered Cambridge off their own ball and skipper Harry Rowlands got over – injuring himself in the process – to bring up 50 before Katz kicked the conversion.
As the interval beckoned, Edwards launched another searing attack up the right and found Broughton outside him who soared in to complete a first-half hat-trick for 57-0 at the break.
Fair play to Cambridge, they tried everything to take the game to Park in the first 5 minutes of the second half, but when Park wrested the ball they launched another telling incursion up the right and then found Ellis inside, who galloped to the line and Katz’s conversion brought up 64-0.
Three minutes later and Ellis was on the charge again, putting away Heeks and eventually centre Dom Shabbo recorded the score, making it 71-0 with the conversion. Cambridge really tried, but it just got worse when a minute later Edwards fielded the ball close to his own try-line and launched a devastating counter-attack, Shabbo playing a prominent role before Broughton finished it off out wide and Katz nailed an incredibly difficult conversion for 78-0.
Still Cambridge tried, and when they won a penalty just inside the Park half hammered the ball to touch into the home 22 to their left. Winning their own ball, they cleverly worked it across the field for winger Patrick Tapley to score a fine try to show what his side might have been capable of had they been allowed to play.
Park replied almost immediately with another devastating burst up the right involving winger Dave Vincent and Katz, but it was stopped for a foot in touch. Park forced a penalty, opted for the scrum and back-seat driver Ellis stole the sweets as they drove over, Katz converting for 85-0 on 56 minutes.
Park returned to the attack and were forced to defend smartly when Cambridge nearly broke with an interception. But it was normal service resumed when another super attack involving Vincent and Ellis saw hard-working flanker Luke Campbell crash over, Katz converting for 92-5.
Another great attack saw replacement flanker Craig McGrath go over on the left, before – inevitably – a great solo run by Ellis brought his seventh try and the hundred up for Park. Katz converted for 104-5 and the referee showed a degree of mercy by blowing for time very slightly early.
After their poor performance at Cinderford the previous week, Park could hardly have done more to make amends, and – on this form – don’t write off their title challenge just yet.
Rosslyn Park: Edwards; Broughton, Shabbo (Hamilton), Mackey, Vincent; Katz; Heeks (Grant); Ovens (Liffchak), Clark (McGrath), Ward; Bowley, Boyle; Rowland (McDonald), Campbell, Ellis.
Park scorers: Ellis (7T), Broughton (4T), Heeks (T), Rowland (T), Shabbo (T), Campbell (T), McGrath (T), Katz (12C).
Cinderford 36 Rosslyn Park 21
Rosslyn Park’s title hopes took a severe dent on their visit to Gloucestershire. Out-played and out-fought by fired-up 5-try Cinderford, they cannot have any complaints about this defeat. Despite a good start, playing with the wind at their backs, it ended up as a rare poor performance. Some regular names were missing, but with a strong squad that is an observation rather than an excuse.
Park kicked off and play was entirely in the home team’s half andl a good rum by Luke Campbell set up the situation that induced Cinderford to concede a penalty in the third minute. Ross Laidlaw’s well-struck effort made a difficult kick look routine to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
Cinderford soon came back; Park were penalised with a free-kick at the first scrum, were then penalised again but Mark Davies missed a relatively straightforward kick to allow Park to breathe again. A difference between the two sides soon became apparent: whereas Cinderford clung to the ball like limpets Park became their own worst enemies by constantly surrendering possession, either by mis-handling or by kicking possession away to allow their opponents to run back at them.
Cinderford gained the lead after 13 minutes, working the ball wide to speedy winger Lloyd Stapleton whose try in the corner was aided and abetted by poor defending. The conversion was missed.
Park came back, gaining a penalty on half way, which Laidlaw kicked to touch inside the home 22 to set up a strong attack. A robust run from Nev Edwards took his side to the 5 metres, from where they tried to drive over. With the referee signalling a penalty advantage, scrum half Jack Gash tried a wide pass that Laidlaw’s outstretched fingertips just failed to hold, but play came back for the penalty which Laidlaw chipped over to put his side back in front at 6-5.
Cinderford still enjoyed a clear advantage in terms of possession and a good attack earned them a penalty that was kicked to touch. They won the ball at the lineout and, after Park had repulsed their initial surge they quickly passed the ball along the line for prop Nick Selway to crash over by the posts, Davies converting to put the home side back in front at 12-6.
An excellent penalty, well-struck from some 40 metres out wide, saw Laidlaw reduce the arrears to 12-9 only for Park to concede a poor try almost from kick off. Again kicking for position, the ball came back to them with interest on it and was promptly sliced into touch well inside Park territory. The error was compounded by some poor defending as home centre Kai Done skipped in for a try, converted by Davies to stretch the lead to 19-9.
To their credit Park came back with an all-out attack through several phases. It looked a vain effort when stout defending saw them again lose possession, but they recaptured it, worked it out wide on the right and full-back Ed Lewis-Pratt ran onto the ball and got round the defence, Laidlaw converting on the stroke of half-time. If a scoreline of only 19-16 marginally flattered Park, then the game was certainly still there to be won in the second half if they could reproduce the sort of form they had shown thus far this season.
Instead they received kick-off, booted the ball straight back to Cinderford who accepted the invitation to attack and a line-out catch and drive saw hooker Tom Bozzard credited with the try, Davies converting, within two minutes of the restart for 26-16. If that was bad enough, it was compounded five minutes later when a simple switch move saw the hooker again cross the line for his side’s fifth try, Davies again nailing the conversion for 33-16 on 47 minutes.
It looked as if Park were now playing only for pride, and they showed they still had it as they battled to find a way to score. Gaining a penalty in front of the posts, Laidlaw hoisted it to touch to set up another attack. A powerful run up the right by substitute Charles Broughton nearly bore fruit, and before the home defence could settle Lewis-Pratt took the ball on to score in the corner. An ‘impossible’ conversion kick by Laidlaw hit the inside of the far post but bounced back into play, which just about summed up his side’s afternoon.
At 21-33 with still more than a quarter of the game left there was still a sliver of hope, but three minutes later Park conceded a further penalty and Davies accepted the 3 points on offer to stretch the margin to 15 points – more than two converted tries – with only 20 minutes remaining. Park tried, but there seemed to be more effort than conviction as the clock increasingly became Cinderford’s 16th man. In the closing minutes Laurence Ovens spoiled an otherwise strong performance in allowing frustration to see him yellow-carded by the referee (who had an excellent game) for a line-out offence.
It wasn’t the start to the New Year that Park would have wished for, but credit to a superb performance by Cinderford.
Park: Lewis-Pratt (Graham, safety); Vincent (Broughton), Shabbo, Hamilton, Edwards; Laidlaw; Gash (Heeks); Ovens, McGrath, Liffchak (Ward); Lloyd-Jones, Boyle; Bowley (Lonergan), Campbell, Rowland.
Park scorers: Lewis-Pratt (2T), Laidlaw (3P, C).