Coach’s Talk – A report from Steve Hazzelby

After a welcome week’s break in the season it was back to business on Saturday with a difficult away game to second placed Stourbridge. Past encounters have always been close and this top of the table clash proved to be a real thriller. Stourbridge have a massive set of forwards who are well drilled and pride themselves on their set piece play, accurate line outs and a tight scrum that is a real weapon. On the day a big crowd, lovely autumn weather and a fast 4g artificial pitch.

Stourbridge raced out of the blocks and scored first with a converted try initiated by good driving play from their forwards. We responded almost immediately with a tremendous try for full back Andy Riley, after a patient build up, and a lovely sweeping move along the backline. Steve Collins added the conversion and it was now 7-7 within the first ten minutes. Stourbridge went further ahead with another converted try on 18 minutes after a sharp line break by their centre and they were now in the ascendancy dominating most of the set pieces.

Despite this we continued to take the game to them at every opportunity and were rewarded with a second score for hooker Matt Gallagher after a solid catch and drive by the forwards. Unfortunately we could not convert the try but were back in the game 12-14 going into the last fifteen minutes of the half. Stourbridge scored their third try on the half hour mark with a searing turn of pace from their left winger who touched down in the left hand corner. Our response was again almost immediate with a try for left winger Jamie Harrison who had come off his wing to score in their right hand corner. Stourbridge got a penalty just before half time and they went into the interval with a deserved 24-17 lead. This was a great half of high intensity, fast open rugby from two sides who were giving it their all.

Stourbridge started the second half much the same as the first with a well executed catch and drive score through their powerful forwards to put them in a commanding 29-17 lead and a 4 try bonus point secured. However the effort and the sheer hard graft of the Sedgley players paid off with a great try from No 8 Tom Ailes who picked the ball up in the middle of the ruck and sprinted to put the ball down under the posts. Steve added the conversion and we were back in the game 24-29. We then scored another try through hooker Matt Gallagher( his second) after a lot of pressure on the Stourbridge defence. Steve added the conversion and we were now back in the lead 31-29 with eight minutes to go and with a bonus point.

The last minutes of the game were hard to watch with neither side wanting to make mistakes but it was the Tigers who made the mistake by giving a penalty away on the last play of the game. Their kicker converted from the touchline and they won the game 32-31 inflicting our first defeat of the season and knocking us off the top spot. This was a wonderful game of rugby for the neutral with two teams at the top of their game. It had everything drama, excitement the lead changing hands and nine tries, 5 for the Tigers and 4 for Stourbridge. We are obviously disappointed at the result but will take heart from an incredible come back performance and it will make us stronger for the rest of the season.

This Saturday we are at home and take on Hull, another top team who are in third place and one point behind us. This is going to be another huge challenge for the players so please come down to Park Lane and support this wonderful Tigers team.