Lichfield travelled to Shropshire based side Bridgnorth RFC on Saturday with very few alterations to the match day squad which beat Birmingham & Solihull the week before. The backs were unchanged and in the pack, the unavailable Suvwe Obano was replaced by Callum Hagyard which left John Doubleday to step up and take a place on the bench.
In a real crunch clash at the lower end of the table, it was always going to be a tense affair which went right down to the wire and so it proved.
Things didn’t start the greatest for Bridgnorth as on their opening attack in Lichfield’s 22, a cross kick was caught and marked by Jonny Evans only for Bridgnorth’s full-back, Sam Wilson, to take him out in the air and receive a yellow card after only 2 minutes.
Within this 10-minute period when Bridgnorth were down to 14-men, Lichfield capitalised and made them pay. First, off clean line-out ball and running through several phases inside Bridgnorth’s half, the ball was moved wide to Dan Rowlands who drew in several defenders before passing to Greg Massey who finished off in the corner for an unconverted score.
Lichfield were back on the attack minutes later before being turned over inside Bridgnorth’s 22. However, a terrible clearance kick saw the ball fall kindly into the hands of Callum Turner who duly ran in from 15 metres out to score Lichfield’s second try of the day. This time, Josh Massey slotted the conversion from the touchline and Lichfield led 12-0 after 12 minutes.
Now back up to 15, Bridgnorth quickly replied. Having conceded a penalty on half way, Bridgnorth took a quick tap and go penalty which caught Lichfield off guard. Their scrum-half broke through Lichfield’s defensive line, drew in the final defender and passed it to his supporting team mate, No.8 James Ridley, who touched down. The relatively simple conversion was missed but Bridgnorth only trailed 12-5.
Minutes later, Bridgnorth scored again after several phases in the middle of the park, they bounced back down the blindside where Lichfield were one short in defence and this led to Bridgnorth’s fly-half, Matt Farrington, to outpace the final defender before running round to score underneath the sticks. He successfully converted his own try and Bridgnorth were now level at 12-12 after 20 minutes.
The next score didn’t come until the stroke of half-time after Bridgnorth had been in the Lichfield for some time. After soaking up phases of pressure on their line, Lichfield’s defence conceded a soft penalty which resulted in Charlie Milner taking one for the team and getting sin-binned. Down to 14, Lichfield were finally undone when the ball was shifted wide, leaving Bridgnorth’s winger, Jordan Burgess, to touch down for an unconverted score which saw Bridgnorth go into the break 17-12 ahead.
The start of the second half was a very open affair with both sides having promising moments but neither side could finish an attack off. It took until the 60th minute for the first points of the second half and this came from Lichfield conceding a penalty straight in front of goal and 30 metres out. Bridgnorth’s fly-half, Farrington, stepped up to slot the penalty and stretch Bridgnorth’s lead to 20-12. However, Lichfield replied with their own successful penalty kick at goal through Greg Massey to reduce the deficit to 20-15 with 15 minutes left.
Lichfield were not starting to play some rugby again and were soon back in Bridgnorth’s 22 when they were awarded a central scrum just 10 metres out. A training ground blindside move saw the ball move wide to Greg Massey who somehow managed to scramble over the try line with three defenders around him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t convert his own try which meant the scores were level at 20-20 with just under 10 minutes to go.
Minutes later, Lichfield were their own worst enemy. First, they conceded a penalty in kickable range which was fortunately missed but moments later they conceded another soft penalty and this time Bridgnorth’s fly-half, Farrington, slotted the penalty to give Bridgnorth a slender 23-20 advantage with just minutes to go.
Lichfield were unable to break through Bridgnorth’s defence for another score or gain another kickable penalty and so Bridgnorth were able to see out the remainder of the game leaving Lichfield to take just a losing bonus point away for their efforts.
There is now another break weened in the league calendar so Lichfield will not be back in action until they host Broadstreet RFC at Cooke Fields on Saturday 4th March (kick-off 2.15pm).