Twos Have the Skills to Pay the Bills against Sills
Spartans twos chalked up their first win of the season in a friendly against Silhillians 2nds.
Spartans twos chalked up their first win of the season in a friendly against Silhillians 2nds. With a horde of players unavailable due to weddings, holidays and injuries the decision was made midweek to cancel the 3rd XV fixture and field just three teams with the 3’s squad bolstering the 2’s numbers.
John Billings came in at tight head prop with Dom Morphet making his second team debut at loose head, with ever present Sam Burke in between them. Tim Barthram remained a constant in the second row alongside third team regular Alex Wood supported by a makeshift back row of Jamie Humpage, Duncan Bowden and Nick Tremble.
With late cry offs and a last minute 1st team call up for Brett Garbett the back line was also much changed. Fly half/centre Josh Atkins moved in to do a job at Scrum Half with Joe Madden holding the Ten berth. Luke Spears, stand in captain for the day, was selected in his usual position of inside centre whilst Guy Waterman came in from the 3rd team at outside centre. Daryl Williams made a welcome return to the wing to form a back three with Cam Holland and newcomer Nathan Holmes. Will Clarke, James Beamish and Jack Grayson all stepped up to support the match day squad to make second team debuts from the bench.
With Sills making an early start and getting into a comprehensive warm up whilst Spartans scrambled the squad and hunted for the elusive club keys it would be more than fair to say that the visiting side were the better organised. The starting XV was only firmed up 15 minutes before the kick off and as the blazing sunshine broke through those made from lesser stuff may have expected a comprehensive away win for the Solihull based outfit.
Conversation and motivation before kick-off was clear, it would not be a game of structured plan as new players were introduced to one another, it would be about spirit, guts, attitude and enjoyment and ultimately the opportunity to spring board into the league campaign with morale running high. This was positive attitude was in abundance as Sills kicked off down the Coppice Lane hill.
A smart kick off take from the visiting number 8 looked to catch Spartans half-asleep but it was called back for not passing the 10 and the forwards packed down on the centre spot for the first scrum of the game. Madden peeled right and fed Holland who carried well from full-back, testing out the opposition defence. The forwards worked into space well before Madden drilled the ball into the right corner, forcing Sills back into their own 22.
This was a common theme for the first quarter, Sills looked good with ball in hand and clearly had 15 men on the park that were comfortable moving it around but the Men in Black dug in and defended well with the half backs pushing the ball back down field with good effect. Sills did carve out a number of chances but the back three of Williams, Holmes and Holland were on hand to make try saving tackles on numerous occasions whilst the front row, although slightly on the back foot at set piece, worked hard defending the tight channels.
Eventually the home defence was stretched too far and Sills took advantage of some poor first up tackling to get over for the opening score. Again, teams with less mettle might have sensed the beginning of the end here, Sills were definitely playing the more positive attacking rugby and the first 20 minutes did have a slight air of inevitability in it but Spartans rallied under the posts, buoyed by the home support and words of the teams leaders.
With the conversion missed Spartans set about their task with renewed vigour, hungry for the ball as they attacked up the hill. A series of penalties gave field position to the home side and a scrum 15m out would prove to be the platform for Spartans first score. A smart set play saw Nick Tremble pick and go right popping the ball up to Atkins. A run-around with Spears gave Atkins chance to perfectly execute a 2 on 1 and put Williams in for a score in the corner much to the delight of his teammates.
It appeared as though Williams had executed another stroke of genius just moments after this as he cut through the line following a slick back move. Guy Waterman in support looked to be in under the posts following William’s behind the head off-load only for the referee to call it marginally forward.
Sills naturally came flying back at Spartans and enjoyed another ten minute spell of possession and territory again ending up in a converted score. Spartans once again came up with a response, this time from open play. Solid carries from Bowden and Wood created space out wide for the back line. Atkins spun the ball wide to Madden to hit Waterman with a miss pass. His sleight of hand released Holland on a blistering line, his pace was too much for the visiting side as he raced under the posts for a fine try.
Against all the odds Spartans finished the half with a slender 12-10 lead.
The opening 20 minutes of the second half was played in stark contrast to the first with Spartans enjoying ball in hand and lovely running rugby. The spirit of the home side was running high now and it was evident in the confident style in which they were playing. The energetic Duncan Bowden was leading way with his powerful carries whilst being superbly supported by the likes of Barthram, Wood and Clarke who has joined the action at half time.
It wasn’t long before Spartans crossed again, this time the forwards showing off their skills as they moved forward like a rampant tidal wave of black shirts. The support play and offloading game meant that Sills were unable to get close to the ball and eventually, after what seemed like all 8 of the pack had at least one touch, it was Alex Wood who crashed over for a superb try. Madden made it two conversions from three as the score moved to 19-10.
Next it was the turn of Daryl Williams again. Wonderful breakout rugby from a kick return saw Spartans make 60 meters in a single phase through off-load and support play. Atkins had eventually picked the ball up in the wide channels before feeding Williams to sprint in from 40m for his second of the game, again converted by Madden who left the field shortly after to be replaced by James Beamish.
Spartans were in the ascendancy now and the bounce seemed to be favouring them. A loose play from Sills had the ball bobbling in mid-air and it was Spears who reacted quickest, picking the pocket of his opposite number as he intercepted the ball and ran in unopposed for a fifth score for Spartans pushing the lead out to 31-12 with 15 to play.
With Clarke leaving the field due to injury and being replaced by Grayson it was Sills who looked to finish the game on a high. A prolonged period of Sills attack epitomised the attitude that had been shown by the home side all game as they desperately hung on, the back three again making untold amounts of try saving tackles. Sills had demonstrated attacking prowess throughout the game and continued to be a threat right into the dying minutes as they cut through the line to score a well worked late try.
Despite the onslaught from the visitors Spartans held on and closed out a superb victory against very good opposition which, on paper, was probably somewhat against the odds. Superb attitude and effort was demonstrated by the men in black including all of the players that stepped up to a do a job in the Seconds where they may not normally play their rugby and those who are likely to remain with the Second Team will be upbeat as they go into their first league fixture next week as will those who return to third team duty on the back of this excellent win.
A quick special thanks must also go to club favourite Tim ‘Curley’ Hesketh who stepped in at the last minute to referee and allow the fixture to happen. Both sets of players commented after the game about a job well done so Thanks Curley.
Spartans 2nd XV 31-17 Sillhillians 2nd XV
Williams x 2
Madden x 3
Joint award to Daryl Williams and Cameron Holland.