Any Burntwood RUFC fears of relegation were banished at The Sportsway following Saturday’s results.
After battling to a losing bonus point against promotion contenders Newcastle, the hosts learnt that Wednesbury had lost at home so they will join Bloxwich in M4WN next season.
At one stage Burntwood trailed the visitors by 14 points close to half time, but the renewed spirit shown by the side in recent weeks was evident again as they secured what looked like a vital league point with a converted try in the 80th minute.
The early exchanges looked promising for the hosts as they probed for an opening in midfield. They won a penalty but Aza Dunet’s goal attempt from the Newcastle ten metre line fell short after five minutes.
The next five minutes saw the visitors test the home defence first through their back division who put a threatening move together which ended in a knock-on. Then their forwards went close but were guilty of a ‘truck and trailer’ offence.
Back came Burntwood, helped by Dunet’s kick to the clubhouse corner from a penalty award. The ball was won and moved wide right and then back left. The visitors’ right winger infringed and was sin binned and Dunet converted the resulting penalty for the first points of the afternoon.
Undaunted by this twin setback, Newcastle hit back via a good run from their left winger to take play into the home 22. The forwards kept up the momentum before releasing the ball. A clever reverse pass resulted in a try by the posts plus the conversion.
However, the winger then joined his co-winger on the sideline for a dump tackle on Brett Taylor which left the visitors with 13 players for a five minute period. However, Newcastle controlled possession to restrict Burntwood’s temporary advantage.
In fact, they extended their lead, still with only 14 players on the field, in the 32nd minute. A line out win on the home ten metre line saw the outside half loop round and chip over the cover defence to collect for a fine try in the left corner. He added the conversion and also kicked a penalty goal five minutes later for a 17-3 lead.
Burntwood needed a score before the break and they got it. The visitors infringed and Dunet kicked for the clubhouse corner. When the attempt at a catch and drive was halted illegally they went for the line out again but this time Luke Rookyard caught the opposition out with a try from a front peel. Dunet added a superb conversion for 10-17 at the turnaround.
The hosts re-jigged their line-up during the break with all three replacements joining the action but it was Newcastle who won turnover ball to extend their lead. The left winger went on another elusive run before offloading to his support and another reverse pass led to their 3rd try. The conversion attempt came back off a post.
Dunet reduced the arrears with a penalty but this was quickly cancelled out just three minutes later and Burntwood entered the last quarter still trailing by 12 points.
A Newcastle drop goal attempt went narrowly left of the target before Pat Bayliss led a great break out to take play into the visitors’ 22. A handling error allowed Newcastle to escape and when they broke close to the home try line Taylor was yellow carded and it looked as though Burntwood’s efforts would go unrewarded.
However, Newcastle’s option of a catch and drive from the penalty award for a try bonus point went awry with a crooked throw in. Then they compounded the error with three penalties against which allowed Dunet to punt his side all the way up to the right corner with just two minutes of normal time left.
A repetition of the front peel move was halted on the line but the hosts were awarded a scrum five metres out. Possession was untidy but Newcastle were penalised again. Dunet kicked for the left corner and this time the catch and drive was successful with Sean Brennan emerging with the ball as the scorer. Dunet converted from close to the touchline.
There were a couple of nervy moments for the hosts in the three minutes of added time but no further scores.
Burntwood 2nds won their merit table game, also a home to Newcastle, 17-10.
With their place in M3WN assured for next season, life doesn’t get any easier for The Sportsway outfit as they welcome champions-elect Tamworth this Saturday (April 9). The 2nds travel in the opposite direction for a merit table fixture.