Battling Lichfield RUFC beaten at Newport Salop

Despite atrocious weather conditions, Lichfield RUFC’s game at Newport Salop turned out to be a ferocious affair.

Both teams were coming off losses in their last outings with the visitors having a point to prove after a lacklustre display at home the previous week.

Each side’s defence held firm for the opening spell of the game, Lichfield edging the scrummages while welcoming new prop Matt Brooks who played the less familiar position at loose head.

Newport full back Liam Holder showed the mastery of his home pitch with accurate clearance kicks, pinning the visitors back in their own 22 on several occasions. After giving away a penalty on the halfway, the Greens found themselves on the five yard line after another pinpoint kick. The catch and drive that ensued broke up, with home scrum half Ashley Paterson quickest to spot a gap and open the scoring wide on the right, successfully converted by Holder on 15 minutes.

This stirred Lichfield into several forays into the Newport 22, but more than once a ball was dropped at the final moment in the pass or knocked out by the home team’s aggressive hits in the tackle.

Another penalty on the visiting ten yard line was punished by Holder on 29 minutes after some inaccurate work at the breakdown by the Lichfield pack.

Again the Greens sought to play in Newport’s 22 and after a deserved penalty at a scrum, Luke Massey was able to open his side’s account on 34 minutes.

If ever there was a moment that summed up Lichfield’s luck on the day it was the next phase of play from kick off. After an unfortunate dropped ball from the restart by captain Rich Burton, a team-mate instinctively dived on the ball in front him and Holder once again cancelled out the visitors’ penalty after just two minutes with one of his own.

Despite lady luck seemingly being against them, the Greens’ competitive spirit was unbowed and with the strong wind at their backs for the second half there was a sense they could claw back the 13-3 half-time deficit.

Playing much of the opening quarter of the second half in the Newport 22, and having found that driving around the fringes was largely successful, Lichfield started opening gaps in the home defence.

After several warnings for offside for the hosts, a longer pass to the right from Lichfield scrum half Seb Goodhew was intercepted by Newport’s Hendry Vaka and he raced away to score a 70 yard try which was again converted by Holder.

The city side continued to keep their heads high and they once more pounded away at the home defence in the 22.

But an unfortunate injury to the Newport blindside saw a 35 minute delay to the game and eventually resulted in play moving to another pitch which had longer grass and lost Lichfield the considerable advantage of the wind.

With 27 minutes left on the clock and a 20 point deficit to overcome, the already poor light made Lichfield’s uphill task all the more of a challenge. Unbowed, they strung together some promising back line moves with Chris Milner and Paul Maxwell Keys finally finding gaps at which to run.

This endeavour was justly rewarded on 65 mins when a sweeping move on the left saw Greg Massey put away on the wing and score from just inside the Newport half under the posts, successfully converted by his brother Luke.

With the game finally opening up and the rain abating, Lichfield were thwarted time and again by desperate last gasp tackles by the tenacious Newport team, often unable to see the tackler in the gloom, let alone play the expansive game for which they are known.

As one move broke down, what appeared to be an innocuous clearance kick by the home centre bounced into the hands of the winger whose clever following of the ball was rewarded by a well taken try on the left, converted by Holder, to firmly slam the door on the Lichfield comeback.

With mastery of the conditions, Newport ran out deserved 27-10 victors, but the Greens have many positives to take from this performance and welcome local rivals Nuneaton to Cooke Fields for an 8pm kick off on November 20.