North East Worcestershire Ravens 32 South Birmingham Hawks 30
Midlands Rugby League South
RAVENS held their nerve to prevail in this eagerly anticipated encounter on Saturday.
This fixture had been on the Ravens players’ minds for 16 months as the Hawks were formed by a small group of Ravens who fundamentally disagreed with the club’s development policy, so this was always going to be a feisty match.
The Ravens started nervously and after some fierce collisions in the opening eight minutes Hawks managed to gather a fifth tackle kick and score the first try of the game.
Ravens immediately struck back with a well worked break from Brad Sinclair, which led to a great try from Dave Pearson, safely converted by Dave Wimbury.
Five minutes later player-coach Rich Whitehouse found a gap to open his account for the game after stepping around the Hawks’ full back and Wimbury added the extras.
A tough, scoreless 20 minutes followed, but a consistent defence laid the foundations for a good assault on the visitors’ line.
Whitehouse crossed the line the hard way this time, with three defenders hanging off him, but he pumped his legs to touch the ball down for his second try and Wimbury converted to make it 18-6 at half time.
New father Lee Knight opened the second half with a superb try in the corner – his first try for Ravens.
However, the hosts made hard work of the second half as a series of basic mistakes hindered their game.
The visitors clawed their way back to 22-18 before Ravens captain David Swaysland stopped the slide with another try.
Hawks again fought back with a converted try off the back of Ravens’ mistakes as they pulled back to within two points.
Whitehouse left Hawks with a mountain to climb with a line break on his own 40m line, before outmanoeuvring the visitors’ full back and extending the gap to eight points thanks to Wimbury’s conversion.
However, Hawks made it a nail-biting finish by exploiting a series of arguably harsh penalties before crossing the line and converting to again reduce the gap to two points.
Ravens’ pre-match changing room talk had been about ‘the team who wanted it most would win’ and that proved to be the case as the battle raged until the final whistle but Ravens ground out their most important victory ever.
Ravens Director of Rugby Jason Spafford said: “The win was about more than just a rugby match, it was about how we run our club and the victory was down to all the subs on the bench, water carriers, first-aiders and everybody who works so hard to push this club forward.”
If you want to get involved with Ravens in any way, visit www.newravensrl.co.uk. Ravens visit Coventry Dragons on Saturday.