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Win not enough as Burntwood RUFC narrowly miss out on promotion

Burntwood RUFC did what they had to do in the last game of the season at Uttoxeter in their bid for promotion – but unfortunately for them, so did Telford and Stafford.

All the top three earned bonus point wins so it was as you were in the final league placings with Sean Latham’s side a point behind Telford, level on points with Stafford but missing out on promotion by virtue of recording one win less.

It is the second season running that they have finished third even though their playing record this campaign is an improvement on 2016-17.

Facing potentially tricky opponents on their club President’s Day, the visitors seemed to have comfortably won the game leading 33-8 with 15 minutes left but a combination of circumstances set up the hosts for a barnstorming finish which almost brought them an unlikely win.

Uttoxeter had also started the better of the two sides and went ahead on four minutes when a player pirouetted out of a tackle to score by the posts but the try went unconverted.

A great response from Burntwood saw the backs make good ground to set up multi-phases by the forwards with Neil Holden eventually grounding the ball for a try converted by Aza Dunet on ten minutes.

The hosts went back ahead with a penalty goal shortly afterwards but Burntwood went on to dominate the rest of the half. Josh Shepherd went close on the half hour mark before Alan Mapp went over from a line out catch and drive following a penalty award. Dunet’s fine conversion made it 14-8.

Five minutes later the visitors’ pack turned over line out possession close to the home line and Holden was driven over the whitewash by skipper Latham for his second try. Dunet added another well-struck conversion for a 21-8 half time lead.

The bonus point try came just three minutes into the second period. The forwards rumbled towards the try line from a line out and Luke Rookyard squeezed over in the left corner for a score which went unconverted.

Burntwood lost place kicker Dunet to injury which meant that Ben Holt stepped up to attempt two penalty goals on 49 and 52 minutes but each one slid the wrong side of the posts.

However, Holt was instrumental in Burntwood’s next score just past the hour. He linked well with Lloyd Dunet first to send the winger up to the home 22. From a line out win, he then made a break which his forwards supported with Josh Canning crossing the line for a try converted by George Neal.

Holt then blotted his copybook by receiving a yellow card for pass interference on 73 minutes. Uttoxeter immediately tapped the resulting penalty award to move the ball left then back right to dive over for a converted try.

A defensive error shortly after the restart resulted in a gift try and conversion for the hosts to bring them right back into the contest at 33-22 with the sizeable home support urging them on.

The forwards ran the clock down during Holt’s absence and even earned two kicks at goal but this time it was Neal who was just off target with both attempts.

Despite Holt returning for the final minute, Uttoxeter had the last word with good handling down the right and a pass back inside for a try under the posts. The successful conversion ended the match and the season.

Burntwood 2nds leapfrogged Longton 2nds in the Staffs Reserve League Division One by beating them 24-17 at The Sportsway.

The playing season may be over but Burntwood put the seal on it with their Annual Dinner and Presentation Evening this Saturday in their clubhouse. Mark Regan, England and British Lions’ hooker, is the guest speaker.

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.