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Burntwood RUFC miss out on promotion after defeat at Uttoxeter

On Grand National day it was Burntwood RUFC who fell at the penultimate hurdle in the chase for promotion.

Bonus point wins for Ludlow and Cleobury Mortimer see those two sides promoted whilst Seam Latham’s side will have to settle for a third place finish in the table which is still a marked improvement on last season’s campaign.

In this fixture they were blown away by the pace and power of the home side who began the match in tenacious fashion and were able to sustain it despite the hot playing conditions.

Burntwood may have comfortably beaten the hosts twice in cup and league on their own patch in the first half of the season but Uttoxeter were unrecognisable from those earlier contests.

They led as early as the third minute. Having stolen a Burntwood scrum, they ran good lines in midfield to sore under the posts for a converted try.

Both sides conceded penalties in midfield as they tried to establish control in a hectic first quarter but it was the home side who doubled their lead on 17 minutes. Line out possession on halfway was moved wide and the outside centre broke clean away to the left corner for a try which was well converted.

Burntwood’s first real attacking threat came after 22 minutes. Brett Taylor’s quick tapped penalty had the hosts back tracking into their own 22. A pass to Ben Holt went astray but Billy Fisher recovered possession to feed Tom O’Brien. He got close to the line but his offload only found a home defender. However, they won a penalty award in the build up and Holt kicked for the right corner. Possession was moved wide but the last pass to Lloyd Dunet was off target.

After Uttoxeter’s lightning start, momentum had now shifted to the visitors. They stole a home scrum and worked their way up to the 22m line. A penalty was kicked to the corner and this time Luke Rookyard went over for a trademark try to make it 14-5.

Burntwood continued to press up to halftime but when a backs’ move misfired, the home side broke all the way down the right touchline, exposing some flimsy tackling on the way. A clever offload took out the last defender and Uttoxeter were in for their third try. The missed conversion attempt ended the half.

The hosts began the second period strongly. They missed a penalty goal attempt on 41 minutes but scored their bonus point try six minutes later. Strong running in the backs and a juggle by a centre created the score which was also converted.

Burntwood spent the next 20 minutes pinned in their own half but the hosts made handling errors to leave the scoreline unchanged until the 69th minute. Although they took a home scrum and cleared, Uttoxeter ran the ball back and broke a couple of tackles to score their fifth try.

Burntwood responded with a fine individual try by Holt. Pat Bayliss won line out possession on the home 22. When Holt received the ball he worked a dummy switch to race clean through for the score which went unconverted to make it 31-10.

The final ten minutes brought four more tries, three for the home side. Twice they went through the phases to work their way over for tries in the left corner.

Pressure from Graham Shelley at the second restart earned a line out ten metres off the home line and it was Shelley who finished off the catch and drive to maintain his personal record of having scored at least one try in each of his last 20 seasons.

There was still time for Uttoxeter to have the final say. Burntwood tried to run the ball out of their own 22 in the hope of a try bonus point but a loose pass was picked off by the hosts to round off affairs with their eighth try.

So Burntwood joined the likes of Handsworth and Ludlow who have all met with defeat at Uttoxeter.

The league campaign for 2016-17 concludes with a home fixture against Willenhall on April 22. There is only one scheduled fixture for Easter Saturday, a 2nd XV match away to Wednesbury 2nds.

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