Alcester 26 Birmingham Civil Service 26
Midlands Five West (South)
SATURDAY’S big top of the table clash ended in a draw and the still unbeaten visitors went away the happiest after preserving their five-point lead at the top of the league.
Alcester chairman Pete Goddard could not have made a better choice than this match for his annual lunch, which thanks supporters and volunteers of the club.
This game proved to be the proverbial game of two halves, with the Birmingham side 26-0 up at the break, only for Alcester to storm back and level the score in the second half and in the end come very close to snatching victory.
At a blustery Kings Coughton the visitors started with the wind and slope at their backs in the first half and took the lead with their first try after only three minutes.
This was to signal a total domination for Civil Service in the first quarter of the game, when Alcester simply did not show and were outmuscled by their opponents as they conceded three tries to trail 19-0.
All the signs were there for a very heavy home defeat, but the early introduction of Meka Pieri to number 8 brought much-needed physicality to the home side and his presence visibly lifted his team-mates as they stemmed the flow of Civil Service attacks to get a foothold in the game.
With the strong elements at their back, the visitors ran in a fourth and bonus point try, before Alcester got their best attacking move of the game going on the stroke of half time.
Lock Louis Smith showed excellent fitness and commitment to be in support as the play moved wide, but as he crashed over the line to bring his side a much-needed score the ball was knocked from his grasp and the referee blew the half time whistle with the visitors in a commanding 26-0 position.
With the elements at their back in the second half, a very different Alcester took the field. Coach Keith Beech had given his side a firm talking to and made changes at the break, the most notable of which was the introduction of the ever-reliable Robbie Parker to the scrum half position.
Parker injected speed and urgency to his side’s play which ended up earning him the man of the match accolade.
The home side claimed the ascendancy in the early exchanges of the half. With the wind at his back, fly half Glyn Smith used the kicking option as an attacking tool very well throughout the half and, after a long clearance kick downfield in the opening minutes and following several phases of Alcester possession, Pieri crashed over. Smith converted to add the extras to his side’s first score.
The try lifted the home side and, now with much more pace and direction to their play, they scored again through pacy winger Ryan Clark before Smith brilliantly converted from wide out on the touchline.
With a quarter of the game to go, Alcester had their tails up and they were enjoying the same level of domination as their opponents had in the first half.
When Pieri crossed for his second try and Alcester’s third, there was a real belief around Kings Coughton that the comeback could result in victory, although fly half Smith – conscious of the clock running down – hurried his conversion attempt and the score remained at 26-19 in the visitors’ favour.
The home side scored the try of the game, which was converted by Smith to level the score with five minutes to go. Skipper and leading try-scorer Jack Green rounded off a move straight from the training ground to power his way through to the line and secure the bonus point.
Alcester remained in the ascendancy in the closing stages, but they were unable to fashion another opportunity which could have forced the win, although in the end the draw was probably the correct result owing to both sides’ domination of either half.
Second placed Alcester – eight points above third placed Rugby Welsh – continue their league campaign as they visit another Birmingham side, Exiles, on Saturday (2.15pm) in Elmdon.
Alcester 2nds 3 Claverdon 2nds 48
ALCESTER 2nds comprehensively lost out to their local rivals, who arrived with a big squad as their first XV were out of action.
A threadbare home side made sure the game was competitive throughout, but all they had was a Matt Ashby penalty to show for their efforts as the visitors ran in eight tries to confirm their domination.