Shropshire Gold on and off field
MOOR travelled to North Shropshire on Saturday in their first away fixture of the season to play Oswestry, having to make four enforced changes to the side from the previous week; two in the backs and two in the forwards.
The only previous league game between the sides at this venue occurred two seasons previously, when the home side had a reasonably comfortable victory on their way to promotion to SLC1, but as Oswestry had been relegated at the end of last season, Moor were cautiously optimistic about their chances, especially after their resounding victory the previous week.
After a tentative start by both sides, it was not long before Moor took command of the game.
Following a lineout from a penalty kick deep in the opposition half, the visitors proceeded to produce a sustained driving maul, which resulted in a try for lock Ben Jones; winger Olly Reynolds failing with the attempted conversion as he unfortunately slipped on the damp surface as the ball was kicked.
Moor then failed to collect the ball cleanly from the restart, which enabled the home side to put them under pressure and resulted in the latter being awarded a penalty, which was easily kicked.
This setback did not faze Moor however, as they again took command and both their forwards and backs repeatedly punched holes in the opposition defence, forcing them to concede a number of penalties.
From one such instance midway through the half, Moor scored their second try in an almost identical manner to their first, but this time it was lock Jack Briggs who crossed the line, with Reynolds converting.
Again, Oswestry reduced the deficit with another penalty kick, but Moor continued to dominate as their forwards supplied their back line with ample possession and on a couple of occasions, chances of extending their lead were thrown away due to the wrong option being taken when in the clear.
Whenever the home side did have possession, Moor’s defence was solid, which prevented any meaningful advance from taking place.
Shortly before the break, the visitor’s superi- ority was finally rewarded, when a move down their back line resulted in fullback Matt Hughes using his strength and pace to overcome attempted tackles and he raced in from halfway to score; the attempted conversion being just wide.
The interval score of 17-6 to Moor was just reward for their efforts and but for a few unforced errors, the margin could have been greater.
From the restart, Moor continued where they left off and scored their best and bonus-point try of the game from another play by the backs.
This time, the ball was fed out to winger Jack Humpage who ran powerfully up the line and as he was about to be tackled, passed inside to centre Chris Sutton, who finished off the move with a try near to the posts, but the conversion was inexplicably missed.
From this point, the home side came back into the game; it was not obvious whether this was as a result of Moor taking their foot off the pedal, thinking that they had the game sewn up or Oswestry redoubling their efforts in front of a home crowd – probably a bit of both. Whatever the reason, play for the last half-an-hour was confined almost entirely to the Moor half of the field.
Oswestry scored the first of two tries in this period when Moor were penalised twice in rapid order and with their defence in a bit of a disarray, the second penalty was quickly taken by the opposition’s scrum-half and he darted over for an unconverted try.
Shortly afterwards, the visitor’s task was made even harder as Jones was sin-binned for tackling the Oswestry No. 8 without the ball.
Although the incident sounds serious, and in other circumstances might have resulted in an even harsher punishment, the spectacle was slightly comical – well, for all except the No. 8, who had to leave the field.
It appeared to players and spectators alike that the home side’s fly-half was about to pass to the aforesaid No. 8, but the pass was expertly dummied.
Jones however, had already lined up the unfortunate forward and being committed to the tackle, brought him down with a textbook hit.
Now playing with a man short in the engine-room, Moor’s scrums were totally disrupted, resulting in Oswestry putting their visitors under constant pressure.
To Moor’s credit, they did manage to defend their line and prevented the opposition from adding to their tally during this period with a man short.
Even when Moor returned to a full compliment of players, play remained in their half and the home side continued to threaten.
Deep into injury time, Moor again had a man yellow-carded and this time, Oswestry managed to score, with a try from the last play of the game and so salvaged a losing bonus-point, as Moor ran out 22-16 winners.
This was a good performance by Moor for most of the game, with both attack and defence being well-executed and they stuck to their jobs ably even when at a disadvantage.
And to add to the Moor supporters’ enjoyment, they were to discover that the bar served the excellent Shropshire Gold, which made for a thoroughly satisfactory end to the day’s proceedings.
Next week, Moor host newly promoted Aspull at Green Lane, kick off 3pm.