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1st XV - Match centre

Old Saltleians
Walsall
Sat 25 Mar 15:00 - Midlands Division - Midlands 2 West (North) Full time

Salts draw

Good 2 points earned against a strong Walsall side

1.R. Martin, 2. A Smith, 3. M Hughes, 4. R. Lee, 5. D. Woodcock, 6. C Davies, 7. A Bardsley, 8. Adam Lee (Capt), 9. J. Knibbs, 10. J. Mason, 11. T. Burrows, 12. T. Lee, 13. W Simpson, 14. Matt Bryant, 15. C. Southam, 16. M Dhanak, 17. Z Mann,

Walsall kicked off towards the brook and commenced to pressure through pack drives showing their overall forwards size differential, Salts tackled well through 7 phases and broke out from a turnover bringing the ball back to the Walsall half before being turned over. Quick ball out of the ruck was hurried by Salts making the 10 skew his territorial kick sideways to Salts left on Walsall 10m. The balls bounced favourably for Tom Burrows to collect and carry up to the Walsall 22m. Drawing the defense wide he passed inside to Wilf Simpson who sprinted past two defenders to score near the left hand upright, and he converted his try for 7 points.
4 mins Old Salts 7 – 0 Walsall
Walsall hit back hard through their pack, again driving up field slowly through robust Salts tackling. Surrendering two balls from scrummages and being forced back in the mauls it’s going to be a tough day up front for the Old Salts. They need to firm up their scrum and avoid mauling this big and experienced Walsall pack. Almost inevitably Walsall played to their advantage with a driving maul from a line out 15m out from the Salts line, which wasn’t well defended, and Walsall stormed over left of the posts to equalize.
12 mins Old Salts 7 – 7 Walsall
Walsall had the bit between their teeth and went through the phases played across from left to wide right and back inside for a good line taken by the Walsall 12 cutting back to score to the right of the posts. Walsall are penetrating the gain line although Salts are covering ground well and hitting the attack hard, but as in the last encounter at Walsall, Walsall are building a powerful forwards base and setting their backs free after battering up-field the hard way.
17 mins Old Salts 7 – 12 Walsall
The 2nd quarter is better balanced with Salts counter-rucking and gaining turn-overs gave Walsall doubt in their route one effectiveness. Salts continue to tackle hard and their fast line speed is causing Walsall to make mistakes and get isolated. In time added on a scrummage to Old Salts on the halfway was turned by held firm for #8 Adam Lee to pickup and pop to Joe Knibbs who spun it out flat to ‘Rommel’ Mason, quick hands to Tom Lee and on to Tom Burrows who overlapped from the left wing and burst through the Walsall centre almost untouched, a despairing tackler is dragged over the line with him a great Salts try under the post, right at the death of the half, converted by Simpson, Old Salts regain the lead into the break.
Half Time Old Salts 14 – 12 Walsall
Old Salts restart the second half and Walsall take cleanly and mount a typical drive through the tight channels. The phases are being well drilled by the visitors but Salts are maintaining their pace in defence and getting hands on the ball and now turning over or winning penalties. With 7 minutes on the second half clock Salts attempt and miss such a penalty 40m out. The game is being battled between the 22m zones with good phases by both teams and strong carries from Ryan Lee who has also hit everything above grass height today. Although smaller, the Old Salts pack haven’t given anything away in the hard zone, brute force and superior weight is keeping Walsall in the game. It takes 15 grueling minutes for a missed tackle in midfield to break the deadlock as the Walsall right wing goes clear through from just inside the Salts 10m, converted by the 9, Walsall take the lead.
55 mins Old Salts 14 – 19 Walsall
Walsall call for more of the same and continue to drive through tight channels as Salts defence gobbles up the attempts to play a wider game. With 15 minutes remaining Salts take a line out into a maul and get driven off the park 15m out from the Walsall line. Salts have so far played all of their line out ball off the top and given Walsall no chance to exert their advantage, thus 4 minutes later in the same line out position the quick ball is thrown through the hands to the left wing 15m channel. Full back Chad Southam holds perfectly to draw the winger and Tom Burrow hits his pass at blistering pace without opposition and scoring wide left. Missed conversion by Simpson against an unpredictable breeze.
69 mins Old Salts 19 – 19 Walsall
Two more missed long range penalty attempts by Simpson failed to break the deadlock. Simpson isn’t his usual metronomic place kicker today but having said that the kicks were not easy.
Final Score Old Salts 19 – 19 Walsall
An electric performance by ‘Buzz’ Burrows on the left wing, with meagre possession, two top quality tries and a smart assist in Simpson’s try. A brave defensive game by 14 Matt Bryan kept the door shut. Sound hands and good counter attack by 15 Chad Southam, a solid central partnership and robust pack play. Mason called the shots and gave Knibbs a ready target to release the backs. The back row punched well above their weight, the tackling was immense. This team worked hard for each other and plugged on until the final whistle. When you are playing a team with promotion as an incentive it will be a tough game to stay in. Salts did better than that, they almost stole it late on as Walsall tired in attack, got isolated and Salts gained more penalties in midfield. The kicks were extreme chances but winning the opportunity says a lot about this Old Salts team. They will take a lot of positives from this game, not least that with about 30% of the possession they looked more threatening than the visitors, and scored from the chances they won.
Man of the Match is Ryan Lee. Tackling positively and carrying dynamically all game, with good hands when needed, a massive effort, he chased everything and knocked their forwards back in attack and defence.
Line Outs – Salts won all their own ball and never looked in trouble at this set piece, they cleverly avoided the Walsall mauling and most ball came quickly off the top by Captain Adam Lee direct to Knibbs who started the third try through this set piece, finding all hands across the width on the 22m. Walsall mainly caught and drove their line out, taking full advantage of their bulk and well drilled mauling.
Scrums – Salts hung in against a good Walsall scrummage. Lost two against the head early on but regained control albeit getting turned and never dominant. The second try came from a clean #8 pick-up at the back of a struggling scrummage, offloaded to Knibbs who sent the backs away.
Captain, Adam Lee, said “We knew this game was going to be tough. With a few players missing and a few out of position a win was going to be a big ask. The big Walsall pack came at us from the start but the heart and determination of the team got us through. With only one lineout option and Walsall's weight advantage in the scrum our backs did really well with the ball they received. If you had offered us a draw at the start of the game we would have taken it, by the end of the game we felt unlucky not to win. ."

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# Team Pl Pts
6. Kidderminster 22 54
7. Veseyans 22 42
8. Old Saltleians 22 42
9. Newcastle (Staffs) 22 37
10. Old Yardleians 22 37
11. Stafford 22 30
12. Shrewsbury 22 13

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