PICTURES BY STEVE SMITH
Newbold 26 Bridgnorth 11
Newbold faced sixth-placed Bridgnorth at a damp Parkfield Road on Saturday and earned four valuable league points with a dominant display.
The crowd were kept abreast of the Ireland v Scotland score by clubhouse legend Dicky Elliot, who could be heard from most places in the village every time Ireland scored.
Newbold have lost too many games at home this season. But Parkfield Road felt a bit more of a hostile environment on Saturday – I’m not sure why - which is very welcome.
Enough is enough of being gallant losers against so-called ‘better clubs’. Opposition teams need to dislike coming to Parkfield Road. Bridgnorth didn’t have a fun afternoon.
There is a ray of light for Newbold in a relegation slugfest between ourselves, Lichfield and Longton.
In short, we probably can’t afford to lose more than one of our final five games, and whilst our record makes this look unlikely, the recent performance level gives genuine cause for optimism.
Sixteen points kicked out of the mud by big lad Dan O’Brien kept Bridgnorth at arm’s length all afternoon. Some of his boomer punts out of hand also pegged Bridgnorth back at critical times when it looked as though they were getting a foothold in the game.
Newbold, to a man, were excellent from the off. The pack tore into their opposite numbers and never let them settle, and dominated territory for the first quarter.
Two Dan O’Brien penalties was the only reward unfortunately, because Bridgnorth – as we experienced at their place in October – really know how to defend their line.
Newbold’s scrum was sometimes under unusual pressure but the lineout was secure with Stuey Houghton’s arrows finding the Thompson brothers nicely. At the breakdown we more than matched our lofty opponents and as always the forwards wanted to carry the ball into the opposition defences all day (despite the massive effort being expended in the scrummages).
In the backs we looked as comfortable with ball in hand as the mucky conditions allowed, which is creditworthy.
The second quarter was edged by Bridgnorth who were a good side, as their league position proves.
Newbold became a bit undisciplined, gave away penalties under pressure, and hung on for dear life for a spell. The defensive shape went to pot (something to focus on as we go into the dry-pitch part of the season) and only dogged pugnaciousness and personal pride kept ‘Norths dangerous backs out. They did get a couple of penalties however, to take the game into half time all square.
Early in the second half Bridgnorth scored with a pushover try but missed the conversion. 6-11 to Bridgnorth, who were now on fire.
‘Bold could’ve folded at this stage because a lot of effort had gone into the first half and Bridgnorth were getting stronger.
Instead, the lads fired themselves up again and earned a scrum on Bridgnorth’s 10 metre line. Then came the move of the day and a beautiful first phase try. Declan George retrieved the ball from the scrum, fed Ethan Wookey who fed Dan O’Brien. Phil Reed ran tight to O’Brien and took the floated little pop pass at pace and split the Bridgnorth defence right down the middle. KJ Henry took the scoring pass for a try under the sticks.
There was probably a decoy run in there again somewhere also, who knows? Great coaching and execution. 13-11 to Newbold, which was then improved to 16-11 by another Dan O’Brien penalty.
Welcome also to new boy Ed Spencer who came on late in the game for his first team debut.
For me, Newbold dominated the rest of the game. On around the fifty-minute mark, Jamie Mapletoft scored a 60-metre lung-buster of an interception try, which O’Brien converted. Bridgnorth’s heads went down and another Dan O’Brien penalty wrapped up this vital victory.
Next up is Bournville (this Friday night, floodlights, at Stourbridge RFC, 7.45 K.O.), who are good but beatable.
If Newbold can keep up the recent performance levels it could be a momentous run-in.
‘I (still) believe!!’.