North Midlands 32 NLD 33
NLD travelled to Old Halesonians for the last game of the County Championships with a much changed side due to unavailabilities, which at one point threatened the fixture. Travelling two short of a full squad and with 6 players on debut, it was always going to be a tough task for NLD but I’m not sure anyone could predict the drama that unfolded once the game got underway.
Both teams were played two lost two and the hosts came out the blocks firing, trying to get a much needed win. An early high tackle gave North Mids a chance to open the scoring from a penalty and two quick tries really settled their nerves as they raced into an early 13-0 lead. NLD were missing tackles all over and this allowed the home side to enjoy the lion’s share of possession and territory which allowed them to score at ease in a period of total dominance.
After 35 mins of play North Mids were 32-0 ahead with NLD looking for any scraps of possession to see if the hosts could actually defend. The answer was soon found as, for the first time in the game, we managed to put more than two phases together and made gaps all over; one of which, number 8 Symcox benefited from allowing NLD to open the scoring. Fly half George Billam converted.
The half-time whistle blew immediately after with the hosts leading 32-7, but the chat in the NLD dressing room was very encouraging and with a couple of tactical changes we were set for a second half to salvage some pride. What happened next was the stuff of legend!!
NLD started the second half where they’d finished the first, enjoying possession and this allowed them to stretch the home side that were starting to blow. With the NLD lineout working, the backs were getting good quality balls which allowed centres Wallace and Moran to penetrate. It was from a break that brought the second score with debutant winger Barton scoring in the corner. Substitute fly half Castledine enjoyed the lack of wind for the first time this campaign and nailed a smartly taken conversion, reducing the deficit.
Full of confidence and belief, NLD now really began to open up and play a very entertaining style of rugby which saw a further try. Replacement hooker Josh Edwards finished off after some lovely phases of attack from NLD. Castledine converted again bringing the score to 32-21. I’m not sure the hosts knew what had hit them and the proverbial game of two halves got even more exciting when fullback Doug Billam (NLD’s player of the championship) scored the fourth try securing at least a bonus point and bringing us to within one try as Castledine converted again, making the game 32-28 with under 10 minutes left.
As we pressed for the winning points a few mistakes began to creep in and passes were dropped as we tried too hard to get over the line. However, with only two minutes on the clock, the comeback was complete when a break on half way went through the hands, the ball was recycled a couple of times and centre Liam Wallace crashed over to put the visitors in front with a minute left. The conversion was missed but NLD secured the restart and the ball was kicked off the field to loud cheers from the players and supporters who’d witnessed an astonishing comeback.
Having had a season away from the County Championships we decided our brief for this season had to be ‘being competitive’, and with a bonus point at Oxfordshire, another against Cumbria and a win at North Mids we can be delighted with our first year back. Overall 33 players represented the CB which is very encouraging. We now find ourselves in the position of being able to build upon this as we go into next season.