Under 16 Midlands Group Game
Staffordshire 31 NLD 22
At short notice, Leek Rugby Club was asked to stage a re-arranged Under 16 county game for Staffordshire against Midlands rivals Notts, Lincs & Derbys.
NLD had beaten Leicestershire last week at Newark by 24-17, so Staffs would have to be at their best to compete against a well established 3 Counties squad.
Staffs U16s are managed by Mike Bezus from Trentham RFC and he has some talented players at his disposal from all parts of the county.
8 players go to Denstone College and most play club rugby as well with Lichfield, Tamworth and Trentham providing 5 players each, Leek 3 players, Stafford, Burton and Cannock 1 each with out of county Whitchurch 1 player.
The Leek 1st team pitch was in excellent condition on a clear, cold day and the scene was set for a very competitive game between 2 well matched teams.
Staffs opened the scoring on 2 minutes after being awarded a penalty for offside in the NLD 22. Prop Elijah StoneTrentham, crashed over for the score after a couple of rucks from the lineout catch and drive.
Will Midwinter (Leek), fly half and skipper, converted to give Staffs an encouraging start.
NLD hit back with a penalty on 10 minutes as Staffs were penalised for not releasing in the tackle under their own posts. The NLD full back converted to reduce the Staffs lead to 7-3.
10 minutes of excellent rugby followed before NLD scored their 1st try. Winning a scrum in their own half the ball was passed to centre Will Wand from Spalding Grammar School and he scythed his way through defenders at pace to score under the posts. The conversion was good and NLD took the lead at 7-10 on 20 minutes.
On 28 minutes, NLD were trying to run the ball out of defence but a charge down led to a ruck near the NLD line and Will Derry, Denstone, picked up and sprinted for the line for Staffs 2nd try. Will Midwinter converted and Staffs retook the lead at 14-10.
The half ended with Staffs 3rd try. After good running and passing on the left, the overlap led to a good tackle on the NLD 5 metre line, but the pressure led to a series of rucks before the ball came out to Will Midwinter. He sidestepped his way past a couple of defenders to score a superb try. He then hit the post with the conversion but it stayed out and the half time whistle blew with staffs leading 19-10.
12 minutes into the 2nd half and NLD hit back. From half way, good passing on the left and Will Wand took over bursting through a tackle and sprinting down the wing to score his 2nd try. The conversion was superb and Staffs lead was cut to 19-17.
The next score would be crucial and it went to Staffs on 52 minutes. Following a scrum on the right on NLDs 22, the passing of the Staffs backs was quick and accurate. Full back Ben Gibson, Trentham, came into the line to create an overlap and wing Alexander Earnshaw (Tamworth) scored on the left, unopposed. Will Midwinter converted and Staffs led 26-17.
NLD needed the next score and following a near miss on 61 minutes with a forward held up in goal, their 3rd try came on 65 minutes with Will Wand completing his hatrick of tries in great style. His pace and hand off were just too much for the Staffs defence and he scored a great try. The conversion missed but at 26-22 with 10 minutes to go, it was next score wins.
With a minute to go, after pressure from NLD was repulsed, scrum half Joel Bezus (Trentham) broke blind and fed Flanker Seb Camp (Denstone) who crashed over for the try that sealed the win following good passing again down the right to within 5 metres of the NLD line.. The conversion missed but there was no time for NLD to get back into the game and Staffs held on for a 31-22 win.
A great advert for Midlands County Rugby, both squads must be congratulated on a fine match with players showing courage, skill and commitment.