After travelling to the Forest of Dean for the last two matches vs Drybrook and Lydney it was good to welcome some of their Forest cousins, namely Berry Hill to Fortress Hallen. After beating Frampton Cotterell and Bristol Saracens in their last two home games Berry Hill arrived at the Fortress in a large coach with about 40 expectant supporters. Despite beating Berry Hill at their place earlier in the season Es knew they could not risk resting on their laurels and would need to be at their best. The few but enthusiastic Home supporters were not to be disappointed with the outcome of the rugby with one of Es best displays of running rugby this season.
1st XV SQUAD: James Brooke, Matt Bailey, Jack Houlder, Adam Skyner, Rob Lee, Henry Kirkpatrick, George Burnie, Rhys Edwards, Joe Watkins, Sam Brewer, Dom Horn, Alex Potts, Pat Dore, Ned Sweeney, George Evans, Jakub Harding, Matt Hudson, Angus Clifford.
Despite the convincing win away to Lydney last Friday the Es' squad saw a number of changes. Probably for the first time this season Luke Jagger was missing but this gave his main try scoring rival Pat Dore the opportunity to run amok and trial his kicking boots. A big thank you to Rich Bevan for providing and laying the rat poison for the lock up, don't let your dogs in there lads! He reappeared from the lockup with a wound to his head having had a tangle with the portable floodlights.
There was a new half back pairing of Joe Watkins and Sam Brewer, and interestingly a Flanker (Ned Sweeney) on one wing and a Lock (Dom Horn) on the other wing! There was a warm welcome back into the squad for Jakub Harding and Angus Clifford both of whom had an outstanding game, and finally a well-deserved call up at fullback for George Evans.
MATCH REPORT: A dry spring like day with no wind provided perfect conditions for an open running game of rugby and once again Es started well with prominent runs from Sam Brewer and Adam Skyner, together with Rhys Edwards who looked to be through after a good lineout only for the ball to be spilled. Pat Dore also started brightly and Es were awarded a penalty after a kick through from Pat and Es continued with a 5m lineout again taken by Rhys who then called for the Es drive and once again this weapon in the new Es armoury came off with Matt Bailey going over for the try and Pat Dore adding the extras (7-0).
Berry Hill were then awarded two penalties in quick succession and the second kick stroked the upright and rebounded. Berry Hill took heart from this and put Es under some increasing pressure but the well drilled Es defence stood firm and it wasn't long before they were back deep in Berry Hill territory and from a lineout scrum half Joe Watkins dodged his man with a good side step and released the ball to Sam Brewer who kicked through and once the ball was recycled it was spun through the hands of Watkins, Brewer, Horn, then onto Alex Potts to Pat Dore and finally to Ned Sweeney for a great open running rugby try and again Dore obliged with the conversion (14-0).
Good passing interplay then led to Matt Bailey going over for his second try of the day and third conversion from Pat Dore (21-0).
Berry Hill looked stunned but may also have been shocked into action but Es were putting in some ferocious tackles keeping them at bay! George Evans had the first of any number of good jinking runs and the resulting attack saw Ned Sweeney run in for his second of the day followed by another good conversion from Pat Dore (28-0).
Sam Brewer was bossing the game from fly-half and having a great game all round, but Es were nearly opened up as the Berry Hill outside centre passed to his winger, but the ball fell a bit low and the winger kicked through and the ball went dead from what would probably have been a try for them. Berry Hill were trying the round the front of the lineout move but this was well watched by Jack Houlder and James Brooke who snuffed out the threat. Es' scrum was suffering a bit but this didn't seem to make much if any difference to the Es attack or defence. However, Berry Hill were not giving up and the next score went to them with a converted try from a driving maul after a lineout (28-7).
Es just bounced straight back and some good running rugby involving skipper George Burnie then saw Joe Watkins go over for a try to cap some good rugby from him, not converted.
Half Time score (33-7).
Jakob Harding, Matt Hudson and Angus Clifford on for Henry Kirkpatrick, George Burnie & Dom Horn. Great take from the restart by James Brooke and off goes Matt Hudson on a run with fresh legs. Another great run from Sam Brewer and incomes Hooker, Matt Bailey to go over for his third and hat-trick of tries. Initially the conversion was missed but the referee insisted it be retaken and Pat Dore makes no mistake with his second attempt (40-7).
The work rate of ex-skipper Alex Potts is second to none and he is encouraging his side all the time. Up to the 5m line and a lineout drive for Jack Houlder to bundle over to keep his run of try scoring games going, the conversion unluckily hitting the post (45-7).
Potts makes a good break out of defence after the restart and Sam Brewer clears, Es recover the ball and its shipped left for George Evans then to Angus Clifford who impressively runs 50+ metres to score, great try + Dore conversion (52-7).
Berry Hill still keep trying but Es' defence stands firm once again until Berry Hill again capitalise from a lineout which sees Es being hit by a second lineout and drive try for Berry Hill, conversion actually hits the post and bounces out but as can be seen from the final score the referee interprets it differently (52-12/14)!!
Joe Watkins continues to impress at scrum-half with a sniping run and with a good territorial kick from Alex Potts Es are on the front foot again. Some good work from Rob Lee and Rhys Edwards and Jakub Harding in the Es back-row whilst Ned Sweeney and Angus Clifford continue to impress on the wings. Es don't seem to have quite the same fluency in the second half but that might be down to the fact that Berry Hill upped their game and became more intense perhaps resorting to some dirty work, e.g. a late tackle on Alex Potts for example, but Es stood firm despite these tactics, eventually the referee penalised Berry Hill and their No.1 Prop was shown Yellow. They were then marched 10m by the referee for verbals and the resultant attack saw James Brooke stopped 2m short of the try line and similarly moments later George Evans was also held up. Another penetrating run from George Evans almost putting Pat Dore in for a try but Berry Hill touched down for a kick out. A superb three quarters move then saw George Evans and Angus Clifford combining well before Angus put George in for a well-deserved try and Pat Dore conversion (59-12).
Joe Watkins off with a knee/thigh injury and Alex Potts steps into the scrum-half position. A deliberate knock-on by Berry Hill saw Es launch an attack from the Es' own try line with a break involving, Brewer, Burnie, Sweeney putting George Evans in for his second try + Pat Dore capping off a great kicking afternoon with a further two points (Editor's Note: A fantastic try with Es running the ball from one try line to the other). Followed by the Full Time whistle.
FINAL SCORE: Old Elizabethans 66 – 14 Berry Hill
Tries: Matt Bailey (3), Ned Sweeney (2), George Evans (2), Joe Watkins, Jack Houlder, Angus Clifford
Conversions: Pat Dore (8)
Man of the Match: Sam Brewer with some great attacking rugby from Fly-Half and some excellent field possession kicking.
Next week (Sat 18 Feb) Es travel back into the Forest for another tough fixture against Bream RFC.
Full Table and Fixture List below
Report by: Paul “Blakey” Barrington
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