UTTOXETER RFC legend Andrew Moult made a surprise return to the pitch at the weekend as the Town crushed Harborne in the Midlands Four West (North) promotion race.
The 43-year-old prop, who was forced into retirement with a shoulder injury in February, defied medical advice to help Uttoxeter demolish their Birmingham rivals 30-8.
And he almost registered a try on what will be a one-off appearance as injuries bit deep at Oldfields.
“I really enjoyed it,” said the former Town skipper, who was due to sit on the bench but started after an injury to a team-mate.
“I was really glad they asked me on Saturday, but on Sunday morning I wished they hadn’t! There were a few aches and pains but I would never, ever let them struggle.
“I managed to last 80 minutes and it was a good victory.
“But I’m a spectator now and want to give the players some abuse, not take it any more!” Uttoxeter director of rugby Don Hayes admits that recalling retired players is not in the club’s long-term plan — with youngsters such as Jake Cabrera and Lewis Bain the future.
“The club is reaping the rewards of the hard work that has been put in at junior level,” he said. “In the build-up to the game there was a feeling of trepidation among the coaching staff.
“We lost some players late in the week with Dan Meads ill, Miles Pilcher called up for work and Mike Davies’ flight delayed back from the US.
“Calling on retired heads is not where we want to be.
“But Harborne were not quite what we expected them to be.
“We stuck to our game plan and after periods of extended pressure they caved in and the points came.”
Two tries apiece for Bain and James Gill, as well as two Paul Milward conversions and two penalties one from Milward and one from James Williams ensured the Town kept up the pressure at the top of the table.
But it was Harborne who broke the deadlock at Oldfields after a Williams slip was punished with a breakaway try.
Milward soon hit back to narrow the gap with a penalty before Bruce Mustard and Moult were denied tries in a period of prolonged pressure from the hosts.
Mustard’s score was chalked off for a double movement over the line, while Moult was denied a fairytale return when the referee ruled he had not grounded the ball in a ruck of players.
Harborne were reduced to 14 men when Gill was unceremoniously chopped by a high arm to the neck as he stormed towards the line.
Milward, however, missed the resulting penalty.
The Birmingham outfit then increased their lead to 8-3 after Uttoxeter were caught offside.
On the half-hour, though, the hosts took a lead they were never to relinquish.
Harborne won their own scrum, but the attack was halted when Pete Allen made a crunching tackle.
He then stole possession and Milward was able to spin out left. Bain made a break, sucking in defenders, before offloading to Gill, who sprinted around the cover to cross the line. Milward converted, giving Uttoxeter a 10-8 lead.
Gill added his second of the afternoon as Uttoxeter scored with a clever move.
Bain changed the direction of play and lined up Gill to go over in the left corner for a 15- 8 half-time lead.
Uttoxeter were more patient after the break and Harborne began to crumble.
Bain got a deserved try to extend the lead when he picked up and dived over after full-back Tom Sherrat was tackled five metres short.
Milward hit a tough conversion and it was 22-8.
Five minutes later and Bain was on the scoresheet again.
Uttoxeter threw long at the line-out and the ball went over the hands of Mat Nance at the back jumping position.
The ball bounced loose and Bain scooped and stepped past his opposite man. He then jerked his way through the covering defenders and accelerated into the corner to dive over for a superb opportunistic try, earning the Town a bonus point in the process.
Andrew Todd then replaced Milward at scrum-half, with Ben Gallimore stepping in for Chris Basset in the centre.
Nance then made a break through the midfield from just outside his own 22.
He sprinted into Harborne’s 22, evading several tacklers before looking for support.
The skipper threw a pass out to the right but was off target as winger Aaron Lakin could not gather it and Uttoxeter were unable to make the most of the break.
Uttoxeter were awarded a penalty late on and Williams took up the kicking duties.
His effort bisected the uprights, giving Uttoxeter their final points of the match.
Cabrera, 17, and Bain, 18, were jointly given the man of the match accolade for their superb performances, with both being tipped for a bright future in the game.