Crewe & Nantwich 1st XV 18 - Banbury 1st XV 13
Playoff Final Midlands 2 West
A page has been turned in the Crewe and Nantwich history book as the Squad from 2013-14 took the club to Level 6 league rugby hopefully in Midlands 1, the highest level reached since the clubs inauguration in 1922. A wonderful achievement by this group of players, the club sides, the sponsors, coaching staff, the administrators and the groundsmen - All play their part.
The large crowd of approx. 500 waited in anticipation as the squad ran onto the pitch through the Junior Guard of Honour, the players holding hands with 5 mini/junior players who beamed with pride. The atmosphere was electric and the Crewe boys started strongly with scrumhalf Scott Cann working his forwards hard over the gain line with hard yards being made by No 8 Kirk Robinson, 2nd rows Niall Mc Gregor and Phil Alcock. The first scrum was called by the referee with a Banbury put in and a massive shove put Banbury on the defensive with them just scrambling the ball away. The scene was set and the scrummage dominance of Arron Voller, Eli Woodward and Al Hargreaves in the frontrow provided the set piece base for the game eventually earning 4 strikes against the head and constant pressure on the blue and whites. The Banbury No 8 veteran Simon Brand did extremely well behind the Banbury pack to get the ball away despite massive pressure throughout the match.
The first score came after 10 minutes when repeated penalties eventually allowed flyhalf Jamie Little to kick his first points. The field and possession dominance of the Crewe pack continued at high tempo and opportunities started to occur as Banbury weathered the onslaught. From a ruck midpitch near the Banbury 10 metre line the Crewe backs moved the ball swiftly through Jamie Little allowed Joe Gammage to find a gap and use his pace to feed wing Tim Cowap who went over in the lefthand corner for an unconverted try.
The pressure continued and after a pickup by openside Josh Collins, he powered through 2 tackles to dive over for another near the posts. Little added the extras. 15-0 things were going well but Banbury had not read the script and momentum slowly changed as Crewe took their foot off the accelerator and started giving away field position by conceding penalties. Banbury flyhalf, slotted a penalty just before half time making the score Crewe 15 Banbury 3 at half time.
The coaches instructed the team on tactics for the 2nd half and the normal play followed as the game restarted!!! Banbury started to gain possession and get over the gain line assisted by Crewe continually giving away penalties. The exciting Banbury backline tried everything to get through and a try saving tackle by Tim Cowap stopped a certain try. The Crewe defensive effort was immense and with fresh legs from Outhwaite and Buckley adding fire to the pack, the Crewe team worked hard to keep their structure. No 8 Robinson returned after a rotation rest and started to get the forwards going forward. Drives by Woodward and Hargreaves pushed play into the Banbury half but all too often a penalty was conceded and Crewe were back in their 22. After 15 minutes Banbury scored a converted try as their scrumhalf broke the defensive line after a ruck and scored a converted try under the posts. Banbury had the momentum and controlled possession except in the scrummage where Crewe turned up the pressure. Banbury kicked another penalty to make the scores 15-13 and finger nails were being chewed all around the ground!
The return of Alcock and Hargeaves with 15 minutes left on the clock brought the forwards back into control. Crewe kept breaking out of their half with counter attacks from wings Tom Baldwin, Tim Cowap and centre Reuben Davies but the penalty infringements kept giving Banbury the ball and field positions in the Crewe 22. Joe Gammage who teased and mystified his opposite number with his runs broke from the Crewe half and after a couple of phases Crewe flyhalf Jamie Little then had a drop goal attempt charged down leaving a potential overlap on his right handside. Crewe kept hold of possession for a few minutes through pick and drives from the pack and ultimately Banbury conceded a penalty which was slotted by Jamie little making the score 18-13. Banbury needed a try to draw or win and they went for it with gusto but Crewe held firm to win the day. The players rushed together with the rest of the squad as they achieved their dream of promotion after a long hard season. Kirk Robinson, only 21 years old last Thursday, was awarded Man of the Match but there were many heroes on the day. The defensive effort was awesome and Banbury were worthy opponents. The quality of rugby being produced from this group is astounding and after only 2 seasons at this level they gain promotion again to Midlands 1. The best is yet to come and there is more potential to unlock and we have young talent coming through from the Juniors and MMU to add to the mix.
Congratulations to all and my head still hurts!