ANYONE witnessing Friday’s game could be forgiven for thinking that the Saints Reserves had just been thrown together an hour before kick off without a game plan and told to go and play. In defence of coaches Ian Talbot and Paul Wellens that couldn’t be further from the truth, writes Graham Henthorne.
The problem is that for most of the game the team just didn’t stick to it. But when they did they scored and in the end still managed to come away with the win.
The first half definitely belonged to the visitors as the Reserves gifted them possession and position allowing them to show what a good side they are.
Two tries in the first quarter opened up a 12 point lead but both came off the backs of good Saints play that came unstuck with poor passing.
The first was a 90 metre sprint to the line after a massive 70 metre touch-finder signalled the return from injury of Danny Richardson.
The second came two tackles after an 80 metre interception had been superbly run down by Ben Morris.
The Saints finally put a good series of sets together putting the visitors under pressure with a repeat set coming from a high spiral Richardson bomb and a fabulous chase from Chris Follin, Alex Eckley and Olly Davies which forced the full back in goal.
From the restart Follin and Regan Grace set the stage for a flowing passing move to the right from which Shannon McDonnell set Dave Eccleston through the line and the centre’s high ball put his winger Ricky Bailey in at the corner. Richardson’s majestic conversion against the grain from the touchline sealed the score.
Five minutes later and the Saints could have gone in level as Grace bounced off four defenders before escaping through the line. The speedster was away from the line with only the full back against him and Richardson screaming up on his outside. He did everything right apart from passing the ball instead deciding to hold on and was swallowed up by the full back.
It could only get better, couldn’t it? That was the gist of the half time talk and from a possession point of view things certainly did with the Saints completing at 85% which ultimately took its toll on the bigger FC pack as the half drew on.
But not before the Saints went further behind to a missed tackle try under the posts.
The final 20 minutes, however, well and truly belonged to the Saints as the Reserves gained repeat set after repeat set due to some fabulous last tackle kicking from Tom Connick and second half substitute Brad Billsborough.
The comeback was started by Jake Spedding who made amends for some earlier mistakes jinking his way over down the left.
Minutes later Captain Olly Davies knocked on over the line but was soon back on the attack as the visitors knocked on. Having swapped positions with McDonnell Bailey showed how dangerous he can be from full back scoring with a lovely arcing run to the right corner.
The Saints were completely dominant now and yet another repeat set was followed by a Billsborough try as the young scrumhalf reached out of the tackle to put the Saints ahead for the first time.
The frustration started to manifest itself in the visitor’s ranks as a trademark big hit from Liam Cooper resulted in a little scuffle.
More was to come, however, as a scrum on the FC 10 metre line was won by the Saints as they pushed the bigger but wearier pack off the ball and they didn’t like it at all. From the resultant penalty Billsborough put the Saints six clear and they played out the final minutes to take the win.
In the cold light of day this was a good win for a young, inexperienced side against a side filled with bigger, older players which was built around a good defensive display and a massive will to win. But it could and should have been so much easier had anyone been able to take control of the play and stick to the game plan.
There were yet more debuts at this level for Jorge Lewtas, Jordan Olmez and Josh Eaves as the Reserves continues to fulfil its purpose of exposing players to greater challenges.
Tries: Ricky Bailey (30 & 66), Jake Spedding (60), Brad Billsborough (71).
Goals: Danny Richardson 1/1, Brad Billsborough 3/4.
Tries: Mike Adlard (7), Jack Downs (17), Jez Litten (52).
Goals: Harry Tyson-Wilson 3/3.
Half Time: 6-12
Full Time: 24-18
23. Shannon McDonnell; 29. Ricky Bailey, 3. Dave Eccleston, 33. Jake Spedding, 34. Regan Grace; 6. Tom Connick, 31. Danny Richardson; 8. Levy Nzoungou, 9. Aaron Smith, 22. Olly Davies, 11. Owen Smith, 12. Ben Morris, 13. Liam Cooper.
Subs: 4. Chris Follin, 7. Brad Billsborough, 10. Alex Eckley, 14. Josh Eaves, 15. Lewis Furlong, 16. Jordan Gibbons, 17. Jorge Lewtas, 18. Jordan Olmez, 20. Callum Hazzard, 22. Tom Whittle.
1. Jack Sanderson; 2. Mike Adlard, 3. Connor Bower, 4. Zeus Silk, 5. Callum Lancaster; 6. Bobby Downs, 7. Harry Tyson-Wilson; 8. Masimbaashe Matongo, 9. Josh Wood, 10. Brad Fash, 11. Jansin Turgut, 12. Jack Downs, 13. Jordan Lane.
Subs: 14. Niall Sidney, 15. Ash Bastiman, 16. Brad Clavering, **. Ross Osbourne, **. Jez Litten.