BISHOP’S CASTLE & ONNY VALE 10 UTTOXETER 11
UNDER-STRENGTH Uttoxeter pulled off a miraculous victory at Bishop’s Castle & Onny Vale to stoke up their title ambitions.
The Town were missing several key players as they travelled to Shropshire for the Midlands Four West (North) clash.
A try and two penalties from James Williams gave them a narrow victory over their hosts, who had only conceded 30 points at home all season, running both high-flyers Cannock and Tenbury close.
But Town had to fight for the points, with Bruce Mustard missing with a stomach bug, Dan Meads out with a shoulder problem and Joe Lewis, Ryan Batthew and Josh Moore all withdrawing at the last minute.
Ben Gallimore, however, managed to recover from a shoulder injury, Richard Ufton came in from the second XV and coach Don Hayes sat on the bench.
Bishop’s Castle took an early 3-0 lead when Uttoxeter were penalised for offside.
It could have been even worse as an earlier penalty was missed when the Town went in off their feet at a ruck.
Uttoxeter began to get established and levelled when Williams hit a penalty after the hosts were punished for an infringement at the ruck.
Williams missed another penalty on 25 minutes when his kick dropped just short - but he made amends soon afterwards with the opening try of the match on the half-hour.
The Town turned over their hosts at a scrum, with the front row of Josh Allen, Steve Woolley and Rob Armett outstanding, backed up by the second row of skipper Mat Nance and Ufton.
Scrum-half Paul Milward span the ball out to Williams, who spotted a gap and darted through, beating the cover to touch down in the left corner.
It remained 8-3 until the break and Uttoxeter came out strongly in the second half.
A driving maul rolled into the hosts’ half and eventually they collapsed it and conceded a penalty.
Williams was on target again to extend the visitors’ lead to 11-3.
Bishop’s Castle began play with the ball in hand as their kicking tactic was not working.
They put together more phases and built several substantial attacks.
But Uttoxeter tackled well and it was the pack who were put under most pressure as the hosts repeatedly targeted the fringes.
The Town were able to relieve pressure from such attacks with a series of breaks.
Aaron Lakin shot up the right wing and Gallimore burst through the midfield, but on each occasion Uttoxeter could not build on the breaks.
The hosts reduced the lead after an hour when they were awarded a penalty try.
Uttoxeter felt it was a harsh call given that it was a first offence within their own 22.
Bishop’s Castle converted to make the score 11-10 with 20 minutes to go.
Uttoxeter knew their intensity had to be raised as the momentum was with the hosts.
They pierced Bishop Castle’s 22 and were awarded a penalty wide on the right.
Williams went for goal but his effort drifted narrowly wide.
Uttoxeter played intelligent but ugly rugby.
They crashed the ball tight phase after phase and retained possession, giving their hosts as little opportunity as possible.
Bishop’s Castle responded and repeatedly got into the Town’s 22 but they held firm and kept the hosts at bay.
Uttoxeter ran the clock down until 80 minutes were up and Milward calmly kicked into touch.