NEWENT claimed a bonus point win on their first visit to Worcester making it 10 wins from 10 this season, but it came at a high price as injuries forced four forwards to leave the pitch before a second yellow card for skipper Dan Fletcher reduced the team to 13 players, writes Simon Barker.
Fortunately the game was in the bag by this time, thanks to another sterling defensive effort and a clinical attack which made the most of limited incursions into the hosts’ territory.
Newent showed several changes from the one which performed so well last time out.
With Will Tanner sidelined by the injury he picked up against Hereford and Rich Townsend nursing a knock on the replacements bench, TJ Slender made his first start for Newent at hooker.
Sadly his game did not last long as he suffered a dislocated shoulder, so Townsend was off the bench sooner than expected.
Phil Middlemiss was unavailable, so Jack Devries stepped up to the second row with twin brother Jordan slotting in at blindside.
Will Hartland was also carrying a knock so was named as a replacement, with his twin brother Jim starting at outside centre – although he was to play a significant chunk of the game at openside flanker following an injury to Leo Oakey.
Nathan Brooks moved to full back to cover for the unavailable Doug Long.
The opening quarter was dominated by Worcester, playing with a helpful breeze at their backs.
They took an early lead from the boot of Nate Atkins, after Newent were penalised at a ruck 30m out
The hosts crossed in the right-hand corner but the final pass was forward, then drove to the line before the maul was halted at the cost of a penalty and a yellow card for Jack Devries.
This time the maul drove over the line but Newent managed to rip possession to secure a 22m drop out.
An inspired 50:22 into the wind by Tom Webb took play into the Worcester 22 for the first time, securing their lineout and probing the defence through multiple phases until a well-timed pass put Oakey into a gap to cross for the game’s opening try. Tom Webb’s conversion attempt was off target.
Webb’s aim was true a few minutes later with a kick from the best part of 40m, after Worcester were penalised, to extend the lead to 3-8.
He then drilled a penalty kick to touch 15m out, after the hosts infringed at a scrum on halfway.
Newent’s drive from the lineout was held up just short, but the ball was recycled quickly and a long pass from Fin Mellis released his opposite wing Kyle Towers for a finish wide on the right. Tom Webb added the extras and Newent led 3-15.
Newent conceded cheap penalties but again their defence repelled everything – despite being temporarily reduced to 14 men when Dan Fletcher was yellow carded for a no-arms tackle. Eventually a penalty won at a ruck deep into their 22 allowed the visitors to clear to touch for half-time.
A tremendous run from right wing Kyle Towers soon had them deep in the Worcester 22. Newent were patient and eventually worked a third try from a 5m scrum. Towers came off his wing to take Webb’s sweetly timed pass and showed good strength to finish to the right of the posts. Webb converted for 3-22.
In another period of intense pressure, the visitors’ defence proved equal to the task, twice holding up Worcester ball carriers over the line, until a huge clearance from Tom Webb took play back into opposition territory.
Text book counter rucking turned over possession and several phases later Hartland broke deep into the 22 before finding second row Matt Henry in support for a run in for the bonus point try, converted by Webb.
A 50:22 from Dan Fletcher had Newent back on attack and a scrum (uncontested, as Tom Woodman had become the second front row forward to be forced off injured) 18m out provided the platform for a fifth try.
Backs replacement Jake Mitchell came off his wing to take the ball in midfield and full back Nathan Brooks joined the line on an arcing run which took him clear to touch down for Newent’s fifth try for 3-34.
This proved to be the high-water mark of Newent’s afternoon. A penalty gave Worcester position in the 22 but once more the Newent pack held up the driving maul over the line, before Tom Webb kicked the resultant goal line drop out back into the opposition 22.
Worcester ran it back and Dan Fletcher was penalised for a high tackle in midfield, for which the referee produced the red – reducing Newent to 13 players, as No 8 Ben Vincent had joined the ranks of the walking wounded on the touchline.
Worcester scored two tries in the 11 minutes of added time for a final score of 13-34.