Droitwich Progress to Final of Midlands Intermediate Cup
By andy maginnis
17-12 victory on Staffordshire Moorlands
Droitwich will progress to the final of the Midlands Intermediate Cup following a hard-won victory at Leek on Saturday. The Staffordshire outfit proved a stern test for the Salt Boys in what was an extremely tight encounter. Droitwich had the best of the opening 10 minutes with Josh Skinner jinking over the line from close quarters and Scott-Walker adding the extras from out wide. The early dominance instilled the confidence in Scott-Walker to take a pop at a drop-kick a few minutes later which sailed over with apparent ease. Even so, some loose offloads from Droitwich let the home side back in and after the visitors' early onslaught the hosts pulled up their socks and responded in kind with a well-worked but unconverted try at the other end of the park. It was clear that the sides were evenly matched and it was no surprise that the first half closed with only five points between the teams.
The Droitwich half time talk focussed on keeping things simple and the second half opened with Staite scoring a team effort in the corner which was well converted by Scott-Walker. The rest of the half was evenly contested with Leek getting stronger as the game progressed. They were rewarded with a try coming from a neat backs move which was quickly converted to set up a barnstorming final ten minutes. Despite valiant efforts from Leek, Droitwich managed to hold on for a hard-fought 17-12 victory.
Droitwich of Director of Rugby, Adam Drew said: "Leek were excellent hosts and offered an extremely stern test for us. I am pleased that we addressed a few issues from the last couple of weeks including reducing our penalty count and creating some space in our attack. This is due to the hard work of the players and coaches and I would like to commend them all for their commitment. The pack worked extremely hard with Mason, Shewell, O'Brien, Horton and Brown carrying extremely well throughout as did Andy Carroll lookalike Hillson who also put in a decent shift during his second-half cameo appearance which was thankfully superior to his Meatloaf impersonation on the coach on the way back home. Poke showed his technical ability again throwing into the line-out and hooking while Staite showed his flexibility by starting at 7 and later switching to 13 as did Barnes starting at 13 and switching to 15 when Penn went off with a head injury. Back three Shore, Cook and Penn would probably still like to see more ball as all three are a handful when they get ball in hand but even so they made an impact when they had the opportunity to do so. As ever Knight was imperious on the ground and in mauls and Middleton showed his class when he came off the bench. Topping also made an impact off the bench despite being out of position and has proved to be a flexible squad member. The coaches were pleased to see Skinner at 9 and Scott-Walker at 10 really starting to run the show but nobody could be surprised at Hanratty being selected as Man of the Match after an outstanding performance in defence and attack. Luckily his playing prowess was superior to his lame showing in the drinking head-to-head in the clubhouse after the game but he didn't do too badly for a lad who is more used to sipping port and lemon after a grouse shoot than necking beer. I would like to thank the referee for keeping order, the touch judges for keeping up with play (despite one of them having a raging hangover) and our hosts for their splendid hospitality. I would also like to thank the Droitwich Monners for taking time out to support us on a somewhat bleak and windswept day despite one of their houses burning down."
Drew continued, "Despite being pleased with the victory, the lads would be surprised and disappointed if I didn't say there are still things we need to work on. There's a good reason why flankers don't normally kick and we need to get a grip on our offloading game but all things considered I was pleased with the performance. I hope that after today the lads can see why the management team puts a premium on players being flexible and multi-skilled. I look forward to a hard week at training."
PHOTO: SIAN BATEMAN