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Newent Phoenix 5 – 25 CCSRFC

“Overlap, what overlap?”

With continuing injury issues and a few players unavailable, Service arrived with only a 17-man squad against Newent’s second team for a G2N league fixture. On a blustery afternoon CCSRFC received the kick off with the strong wind at their backs. Straight from receiving the ball, Service settled into their game showing powerful carries, good ball retention at the breakdowns, and great support play with simple crisp passing resulting in the visitors working their way up field.

The visiting side maintained 100% possession for the opening 5 minutes of the game taking play deep into the home side’s 22. After demonstrating patience and building pressure through front-foot power, it was left to winger Alex Richardson to step inside his opposite number and open the scoring. It wasn’t an afternoon for kicking and the try went unconverted. 0 – 5

The perfect start and some of the best controlled rugby Service had played all season. Newent hadn’t yet touched the ball. The tumultuous nature of the conditions was evident when the restart kick resulted in Service misjudging the flight of the ball allowing the home side to take possession and test the visitor’s fringe tackling. The home side’s no 8, who carried well all afternoon making good metres, proved difficult to bring down by the CCSRFC defensive line.

Newent got themselves into the game and pressurised the visitor’s line. A great lineout steal by the impressive Andy Lees at the front of the Civil Service lineout allowed the away side to clear their lines and move up field. A resulting Newent knock-on resulted in a scrum on half way. A solid set-piece allowed skipper Ollie Wilton to make a break from No.8 and drive into the backline of Newent. A great support line from Ed Cooke saw the pop pass give him a clear unopposed run in to give Service a well worked second try after 14 mins. Once again, the conversion proved elusive due to the swirling wind. 0 – 10

Throughout the game, Civil Service’s set piece was strong and the pack showed their class at scrum time winning penalties all over the pitch. Even more impressive when considering the positional changes made on the day. Isaac Lewis threw-in impeccably in challenging conditions and Service’s ‘catch and drive’ was a highly effective attacking weapon. After 30 minutes of game-play an attacking lineout deep in the Newent 22 saw Ollie Wilton go over for a well-executed training ground move that gave the visitors a lead that extended their cushion to beyond two converted tries. 0-15

Service mounted further unrelenting pressure deep in the home side’s 22 and, with the clock in the red and the strong wind in their faces, Phoenix attempted a clearance kick. The result was that the ball actually blew backwards, only to find a cleverly positioned Will Markey to collect it and dot down from only a few metres. This brought up the away side’s Try Bonus Point and a 20-point cushion for Service to take into the break.

Half Time: 0 – 20

Civil Service now faced the strong wind – they would need to up their power and support in their carries, dominate the contact areas and then use the backs out wide. They needed to revert to the game plan. They started well again and after 6 minutes MOTM James (Arnie) Arnold, now playing at 9, darted away from a ruck deep in the Newent half and through a gap in the home side’s fringe defence to add another 5 points. 0 – 25

Newent continued to ask questions of the defensive structure and tackling ability of the visitors. A series of close quarters carries saw the home side get a deserved try after 51 mins. 5-25 With injuries, some ‘temporary’ to the home sides front row, and apparent lack of bench cover and debatable law interpretations, the second half saw scrums swap between uncontested and contested dependant on circumstances.

This disrupted Civil Service’s ability to build from the platform that had been giving them brilliant go-forward and conversely allowed the home side to benefit from that area of the game. The rest of the second half was challenging for both sides, with the game’s continuity breaking down and Service unable to capitalise on the space that they were able to create through fantastic pod work.

Some real positives to take from the game, not least getting another 5 points on the road; but plenty of room for improvement too. Service now turn their attention to face Norton at home next Saturday.

FT: 5-25