Redditch 2nds 24 Stourbridge 4ths 5
RUGBY in the rain can be an enjoyable experience but, when the temperature is only just above freezing, it becomes most unpleasant and that is just for the spectators.
There can be no denying this was the case on Saturday as, given players’ eagerness to rush about in the rain and mud, the conditions limited their ability to perform the most basic of skills such as catching and holding on to the ball.
Thankfully the game was refereed sympathetically, otherwise it could have been a continuous scrum.
Fielding a strong second team, Redditch gelled well from the start and even the new faces did not look out of place overall, despite many being completely out of position.
Winger Harvey Habgood started at scrum half and second row Matt Allen at centre, whilst James Mills at fly half kept the pack moving forward with some astute kicking and Will Baillon moved around the backs, often defying the conditions with safe hands and nimble feet.
Prop Dan Oscroft opened the scoring with his second attempt after a penalty tap ten metres out gave him a rehearsal run but the referee called it back for a technical infringement.
Stourbridge were obviously not expecting the same trick twice and this allowed Oscroft to charge through the defensive wall to score.
Baillon claimed the second try as he skipped around the floundering packs and neatly side-stepped the full back to slide under the posts, allowing Jack Mertens an easier conversion attempt which he landed to give Redditch a 12-0 half-time lead.
The fingers got colder, exhaustion running across an increasingly wetter pitch increased and, with a lack of replacements on both sides, the patched-up players slugged it out for another half.
It was not pretty but there were some moments to savour. Connor Morris came in off his wing in a desperate bid to get warmer and get more involved with some enterprising runs and Micky Essex was a constant thorn in the Stourbridge side.
The hosts’ Matt Allen scored two tries – the first from a scrum set-piece finding space on the blind side and the second whilst showing remarkable dexterity to pick up a dropped ball whilst facing the wrong way before ducking and diving his way over the line. Mertens converted the latter score.
With the outcome confirmed, the only concern was when the final whistle would blow. As concentrations lapsed, Stourbridge exploited this to score a late consolation try.
Having been inactive since mid-October due to the weather and demise of Trinity Guild, Redditch return to Midlands Five West (South) action on Saturday at home to Rugby Welsh.
The Kingfishers are sixth but have games in hand and the result of this game could go some way towards sifting the promotion contenders from the also-rans.