DONALD Hayes praised the character of his Uttoxeter RFC side after they beat Wednesbury to record a 10th win of the season in Midlands Three West (North).
The Town made it back-to-back home victories after their triumph against Yardley & District the previous week.
And Hayes was over the moon with the performance of his side – with teenager Henry Knox scoring four tries.
“I was completely taken aback by the way the lads conducted themselves,” said the club’s director of rugby.
“We hit all aspects of the game with huge intensity – we were physical where we needed to be and dominated the contact area, but at the same time we concentrated the play and kept excellent shape.
“It’s a performance that has made me proud to be part of Uttoxeter RFC.
“In the last 20 we dropped off a little bit, but that can be put down to the monumentally exhausting effort we put in.
“We took chances and racked up the points when we could which meant Wednesbury had too much work to do when they began to get back in the game.”
Wednesbury fought back late on and Hayes was pleased with the way Uttoxeter coped.
“The lads showed excellent character in the final stages of the match,” he said.
“Wednesbury were looking to get a fourth try to take a losing bonus point but the team continued to battle when exhausted to ensure the visitors left empty handed.
“I asked the lads to put in a shift, they did and were rewarded with an excellent victory.
“We’re looking to carry this momentum on when we travel to Bloxwich and we’re looking to make it three wins on the trot, which incidentally would be our best winning streak of the league this year.”
Youngster Knox also impressed Hayes in the match.
“Special praise goes out to 17-year-old Henry,” he said. “Prior to the kick-off I asked him to prove a point and he put in an excellent display, not only to score four tries, but in other facets of the game.”
Wednesbury took the lead with a penalty after 10 minutes to go 3-0 up, but this was the only opportunity they were allowed to have in the first half as Uttoxeter shut the visitors out.
For 15 minutes Town were camped inside Wednesbury’s half and time and time again they battered the line but the visitors held firm.
Finally, after 25 minutes Uttoxeter broke through.
No 8 Jack Conlon picked from the base of a ruck and crashed trough two tacklers to touch down out on the left.
Minutes later Town extended their lead to 8-3 when Paul Milward kicked a penalty.
Knox scored the first of his four tries when Uttoxeter executed a strike move from inside Wednesbury’s half.
Bruce Mustard popped off the top of the line-out and the ball was spun out. Lewis Bain ordered a set move and Knox was released up Uttoxeter’s right flank. The young centre handed off a defender before charging into the corner for an excellent try. Milward struck the tough conversion from out wide to give Uttoxeter a 15-3 lead.
The hosts scored close to the end of the half to put a bigger gap between the two sides.
Milward box kicked and the ball bounced wickedly. Winger James Gill had followed up and was able to claim the loose ball.
Bain picked up and spun out to Knox, who stormed in for his second. Milward added the extras and Uttoxeter went in at the break with a 22-3 lead.
Knox completed his hat-trick early in the second half.
The pack crashed the ball up the right, with Dave Chell and Conlon smashing over the gain line.
Milward popped off blind to Steve Woolley, who took the ball on to draw the defence.
With the gaps out wide, Bain called for the ball out. Wednesbury saw the the danger out wide and began to cover across in an attempt to shut the space down but they were too eager and left a gap in the midfield.
Knox saw the space, straightened his line and shot through the gap to touch down under the posts, giving Uttoxeter the bonus point. Milward added the extras to make the score 29-3.
Flanker Jim Holmes scored next for Uttoxeter. From a line-out deep in Wednesbury’s half the ball bobbled loose at the back and Holmes picked up, shrugged off three tacklers and crashed over the line. Again Milward’s reliable boot added the extras to make the score 36-3.
Tom Sherrat was then given 10 minutes to ponder life as he was forced to watch from the sin bin when he was given a yellow card for not retreating at a penalty.
Town’s final try and Knox’s fourth was scored following some great pressure on the visiting full-back after 65 minutes.
Milward kicked deep into Wednesbury’s half for Bain and Gill to chase down the full-back.
He attempted to clear with a kick but Gill was able to charge the ball down, the ball bobbled over the try line and Knox was the first in a queue of Uttoxeter players waiting to touch down. Milward knocked over the conversion again to make the score 43-3.
Wednesbury pulled a try back after some pressure and their scrum-half added a conversion to close the gap.
Not long after the return of Sherrat, Uttoxeter’s Jack Conlon saw yellow so again the hosts were down to 14 men.
Wednesbury scored two further tries late in the game, but could not find a fourth to get a bonus point in their relegation fight.