Rugeley 0 v 14 Uttoxeter
UTTOXETER ended their pre-season campaign with a comprehensive, if lowscoring win over Rugeley.
The visitors took their time to settle into the match and found it hard to put together many phases in the opening stages, thanks to Rugeley being physical and disruptive in the breakdown.
The disruption appeared to frustrate Uttoxeter as they were unable to play quick ball and put together the phases they were looking for, and scrum-half Alex Crisp was sin-binned for repeatedly arguing with the referee’s decisions.
Paul Milward had an early penalty effort go wide after a period of extended pressure.
Uttoxeter remained inside Rugeley’s half for the majority of the first period, and the pressure began to yield opportunities.
Rugeley attempted to run the ball from deep and were tackled just outside their 22.
The ball bounced loose and hooker Steve Woolley picked up in space, went for the line, but was caught five metres short, unable to offload to flanker Jim Holmes.
Rugeley made a break from their own half as they spotted a half gap and went through, but the play was quickly cut down as James Williams made a covering tackle in the midfield.
Williams was then forced off moments later with an injury and was replaced by Dale Spratt.
Milward then broke the deadlock for the visitors as Uttoxeter scored an explosive breakaway try.
Captain Mat Nance won the line-out and the ball was played quickly over the top to Crisp, who fed Lewis Bain, and he cut an angle open, eluded a tackler and popped back inside to Pete Allen.
The flanker shrugged of a tackler and continued running open, drawing a final man before offloading to the looping Milward, who beat the Rugeley winger with pure pace to continue up the flank and cross the line.
Milward then converted his own try, giving Uttoxeter a 7-0 lead.
Uttoxeter had a further opportunity to extend the lead before the close of the half, as from a line-out the ball was sent wide quickly and Bain linked up well with centre Tom Brown.
Brown released Spratt, who had support but went for the line himself and was denied a try as he was held up over.
Rugeley ventured into Uttoxeter’s half with their final attack of the period, but it was sent backwards when Spratt put in a crushing tackle on Rugeley’s fly-half.
At half-time Nance, who had suffered a blow to the head, was removed from the field as a precautionary measure - Mike Davies took up the captaincy in his absence.
In the second half, Uttoxeter raised their performance, they began to put together more phases of play and showed more consistency in attack.
Further opportunities were created in the second half, as full-back Tom Sherrat broke through up the right flank and was held just short of the line, unable to offload to winger Spratt.
Milward darted up the left hand side of the pitch after supporting a break from Jake Cabrera, and Milward sprinted through before popping back inside Sherrat, who was held up over the line.
Uttoxeter were then rewarded for their consistent pressure when the referee awarded a penalty try.
The visitors used their pack to push forward and as penalties were awarded, they continued to opt for the scrum.
With Davies controlling the ball at the base of the scrum, the pack edged closer, and after repeated offences the referee decided enough was enough and gave Uttoxeter the try, converted by Milward.
Despite playing uphill, Rugeley were pinned in their half for much of the match, and although they attempted to gain ground by kicking deep into Uttoxeter’s half, the back three of Spratt, Sherrat and James Gill returned all the kicks.
With the final play, Rugeley kicked deep and Spratt fielded the ball on the right, ran across the pitch up the left flank, where the ball was quickly recycled.
Gill picked up and sprinted through a gap before offloading to Allen, who stormed into the hosts 22.
Unfortunately the ball could not be recycled and the final attack was cleared by the hosts, making the final score 14-0.
Director of rugby Donald Hayes said: “All credit to Rugeley’s defence, it was very passionate and determined.
“However they never looked like scoring and Uttoxeter were not put under any noticeable pressure.
“We shall be focusing on our finishing, ensuring that we capitalise on the opportunities that we create.
“I’m expecting greater things next week in the league when the stakes are higher.”
Uttoxeter host Shropshire side Bromyard on Saturday, an unknown quantity who won promotion last season after winning all 16 of their league games and conceding only 92 points.