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Match report: Old Saltleians RUFC 41 Burntwood RUFC 3

The great escape didn’t materialise for Burntwood on the final day of the league season.

Having restricted the league runners-up to a solitary try in the first half, Old Salts showed why they are in the play-offs with six tries in the second period.

A win for Graham Shelley’s men would not have been enough anyway as both Lordswood Dixonians and Spartans both won their fixtures to escape the drop.

Burntwood have been in the bottom two for much of the season but had gradually clawed their way nearer to the teams just above them. They can consider themselves unfortunate to be relegated with 32 league points, a tally which would have been good enough to stay up in most leagues.

Despite playing into the wind in the first half, Old Salts had the better of the half, threatening the visitors’ line on several occasions, the first coming as early as the 3rd minute. It ended with a missed pass to the left winger.

Offloads and reverse passes really tested the Burntwood defence and the hosts should have taken the lead on 10 minutes but a scoring pass to the same winger was adjudged forward.

The visitors broke the siege after 12 minutes. Skipper Shelley launched a kick into Old Salts’ territory and followed it up to regain possession but his pop pass under pressure to Matt Wood just missed its target.

Three minutes later and Burntwood almost took the lead. Ben Holt, safe and secure at full back all afternoon, caught and ran forward set up possession for his forwards. Wood chipped over, re-gathered and sped to the home five metre line but when he was closed down his pass out to the left went loose.

Old Salts finally opened the scoring on 24 minutes. The visitors lost possession on half way and allowed the home left winger to go on a forceful run to the five metre line. The ball was re-cycled left for a dive over the line near the left corner flag.

Burntwood hit back well after the restart, following up the kick off to earn a scrum in the home 22. The backs saw the ball but couldn’t find a way through.

Play became scrappy up till half time with no points scored by either side. Holt coped well with two kicks downfield early in the second period but when Nick Peplow lost possession, the home outside half chipped through and followed up to score wide left.

Steve Blockley and Holt combined well to send the former racing down the left touchline. The attack ended with a penalty to Burntwood which Wood kicked from 30 metres, a well-judged effort into the wind.

Burntwood’s joy was short-lived. Old Salts won possession at the restart, moved the ball right and then caught out the visitors’ defence with a reverse kick back left for the third try.

The bonus point try was also quick to arrive. Having infringed at the kick off, Burntwood found themselves pinned back inside their own half. Line out ball was used neatly by the home backs for another try near the left corner flag.

Just after the hour, another penalty against Burntwood was punted to the top right corner. It led to a sustained attack which was concluded with a slick reverse pass for a converted try under the posts.

Old Salts continued to use the boot to kick for position. They won a line out on 68 minutes and moved the ball across midfield for a powerful, angled run to split the visitors’ defence for another converted try.

Despite the writing being on the wall for Burntwood, they mounted an attack with 10 minutes left but Shelley’s attempt to catch the home defence out with a chip through proved unsuccessful.

Old Salts broke out with another kick deep into the visitors’ territory with five minutes remaining. From a scrum, they worked the ball right. The first player was well-tackled but the support was there to pick up and pop the ball over near the posts for a converted try.

Both sides ran the ball enterprisingly up till the final whistle. Peplow featured twice for Burntwood but there were no further scores and Burntwood were resigned to their fate.

Burntwood conclude their season at The Sportsway with the visit of Welsh touring side Abercarn this Saturday (April 28), kick off 2pm. The veterans play in the Old Newtonians Veterans Tournament on May 12 looking to defend the title they won last season.

The club’s Presentation Night is on May 4 and the AGM is on May 16 – both events being held in the clubhouse.

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.


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