Longton 1st XV 0 v 22 Birmingham & Solihull
Longton travelled to unbeaten league leaders, Birmingham Solihull with a team which was totally depleted by injuries, work commitments and a ban for influential fly-half, Lee Brogan and came away with only a battling 3 try defeat of 22pts. to nil.
Apart from Lee Brogan, fellow half back, Eddie Askew was working, Scott Rawlings is not yet quite ready and flanker, Ben Shutt, was working. Staffordshire University student, Hamish McDonald made his debut in the centre ( very promising ) alongside flanker, Fiji Ronnie; back row man, Sam Longstaff, became an emergency scrum half for the day. The crisis in the backs was further deepened at half time when stand-in fly half, Grant Hallam, did not come out after half-time having suffered a head knock in the first half.
The game started badly for Longton when the home team took a quick tap penalty after 8mins. and spun the ball wide to create an overlap for an easy try. The conversion was good for a 7 point lead. However, this was not the start of the expected avalanche of tries as Longton battled tooth and nail to stay in the game. The emergency centre pairing of McDonald and Fiji Ronnie were defending well and winger, Sam Evans, was putting in some solid tackles out wide.
Aided by strong ball carrying from Pete Wilshaw, Mikey Allen and Fiji Ronnie the visitors were able to advance into the Bees “22”. In trying to stop the momentum of the drive Bees had a forward yellow carded. However, with limited options outside the pack no score was forthcoming as the home defence repeatedly defended their line superbly.
In the 32nd. minute fly half and place kicker, Grant Hallam, received a heavy knock making a tackle and although he was able to resume after treatment he was clearly not right and did not appear for the second half.
In the 36th. minute Bees increased their lead to 10 – 0pts. with a penalty from inside the Longton “22”. As half-time approached the influential Pete Wilshaw was yellow carded at the breakdown but the interval arrived without any further scoring.
The second half was only 2 minutes old when Bees fly half, Redman, dummied though a gap to touch down under the posts and the simple conversion made it 17 – 0pts. With Longton back to full complement as Pete Wilshaw returned to the fray they proceeded to dominate possession and territory for the next 10 minutes. They made repeated attempts to pick and drive within 5m. of the try line but the Bees defence managed to keep the rampaging Longton eight at bay, albeit with the loss of a forward to a yellow card. Eventually the ball was spilled in the increasingly wet conditions and Bees were able to clear their lines.
By now, Longton were forced to use hooker, George Glenn, and prop, Craig Wilson, to make clearance kicks from the base of rucks such was the disruption in the backs.
With 5mins. to go Bees switched the ball from left to right from where they created an overlap to touch down wide out. The conversion was missed leaving the final score at 22pts. to nil. Despite the defeat this was arguably one of Longton’s best performances of the season as they battled for every ball for the whole 80 minutes with their much-depleted team,
Next week Longton have the first of 3 successive home games beginning with in-form Scunthorpe when it is hoped to have Scott Rawlings and Eddie Askew back for this game with Lee Brogan returning a week later.