Minchinhampton arrived at Tewkesbury Rd with clear intention to avenge the home defeat they suffered against CCSRFC earlier in the season.With both sides naming much changed line ups to their previous encounter the early exchanges would be interesting.
Service, delighted to welcome back and give a season debut to centre Paul Barlett, were looking for the bonus point win to regain top slot in the league.
The game kicked off with a strong wind behind the hosts who quickly realised how strong a wind with the kick off going dead to give the visitors a scrum on half way. An early test for the visitors at scrum time, who would gain ascendancy at set piece? The first and all subsequent scrums proved competitive and credit to both packs who battled hard all afternoon. The early exchanges saw both sides running hard lines but unable to gain control. Infringements at the breakdowns prevented either side to take control and subsequently the game was struggling to flow. However, 10 minutes in, a scrum to Service in the opponents 22 saw quick ball shipped to centre Paul Bartlett who broke through a couple of tackles to open the scoring for the home side. A try that was converted by Will Markey. 7-0 to the hosts.
Even with the strong wing behind, the home side were struggling to dominate territory, and it was Minchinhampton, that following some big ball carries, crashed over the home sides line for a converted try to level the scores. 7-7.
Service were struggling to get and retain clean quick ball. They were second to too many breakdowns. Support players failing to clear tacklers and secure ruck ball. Such allowing Minchinhampton to spoil and disrupt the ball retention and patterns of the home sides attacking shape. When Service did attack with clean ball, their attacking shape was too flat and faced with good line speed from the visitors defensive line attacks were coming to nothing.
After 26 mins No.10 Will Markey ‘had a party’, with an outrageous dummy which sent the midfield wide whilst he glided through the created gap for an excellent solo score, which he himself added the subsequent conversion to give Service a 14 – 7 lead.
Minchinhampton were starting to concede multiple penalties, at and around the tackle area. Resulting in a yellow card for multiple offences with the final one being a deliberate ‘knock on’ preventing a try scoring opportunity. The visitors down a man and with 5 mins to half time defensive gaps would surely be created. Some good handling by the home sides centres saw Full Back Sam Townsend go over on 36 mins for an unconverted try that took Service into a hard fought half time 19 – 7 lead.
The half time instructions were simple. Playing into the strong wind will require the carries to be more powerful, with better support and dominate in contact. Service needed to focus and execute their Game Plan. Straight from the whistle Skipper for the day Ollie Wilton led from the front, an abrasive carry took the ball deep into the visitors 22. Carries from Liam Stretton, Matt Baker and man of the match Issac Lewis followed and started to test the defence and brought pace and power to CCSRFC attack. Purposeful ruck clearances and ball protection saw service start to dominate. Following a conceded penalty, quick thinking saw Wilton given the ball and nobody was going to stop him crashing over the try line to open the scoring after 9 mins of the half. Try converted by Markey to give Service a 26 – 7 lead.
The home sides forwards were driving into the visitors. Andy Lees was dominating the skies in the line out. Service were on top and the visitors were struggling to deal with the power, precision, and execution. From a line out some great lines of running, off the ball from the backs, put Full Back Sam Townsend through the middle and with the support line being run by Ollie Wilton saw the skipper go in for his second try within 14 mins. This time unconverted 31 – 7.
Service had too much pace and power, a great individual break from the impressive Paul Bartlett saw the returning centre go in under the posts 3 minutes later for a converted try after 65 mins. 38 – 7.
Changes were made with the ever young Alex (hips) Richardson , Arron ( i’ll be at training ) Hudson and Angus (hows long left) Guthrie replacing Liam Stretton, Scot Munden and Will Markey.
Within minutes, a move started by replacement 9 Guthrie and Skipper Wilton saw Alex Richardson take an inside pass and with the pace of a 42 year old, just made the line. 43 – 7.
With minutes to play Service weren’t done. No 8 Wilton had the chance to power over and secure his hat trick only to decide to pick out the visitors full back, all 5ft of him, rather than the acres of space available either side to run into and then…. come off second best!
With great handling and support play, Service continued to attack. The confidence had returned. From their own half they saw the opportunity and the games final score came from winger James Arnold who, thoroughly deserved his try following a great performance in both attack and defence.
The second half saw some great control and power from the home side which resulted in some quality scores, sending them back to the top of the league and the crowd home / to the bar happy.
Full Time 48 – 7