Rugby St Andrews1's vs Northampton BBOB's
Top of the Table Clash
Rugby St Andrews 22 Northampton BBOB 12
Midlands 3 East (South)
Saints welcomed BBOB to Ashlawn Road for a top-of-the-table clash with both teams tied at the top with 33 points with the prospect of heading into the new year in pole position for the winners.
Saints made a slow start and were not themselves in the opening ten minutes, whether that was down to the visitors’ defensive effort or the fact that Saints had not played in four weeks it set the tone for an opening period dominated by the defences. Saints were up against a much larger pack but were still winning possession but the line speed of the BBOB back line was closing down any space for the backs, the opening score arrived after 16 minutes, BBOB lost possession on the halfway line and Ben Davison was first to react to the loose ball, scooping it up before drawing the full-back and feeding the supporting Joe Hudson who raced away to cross for a try. Saints pushed for a second score but lost possession close to the line and ball was picked up by BBOB who raced away but the speed of Eliot Hudson saw him catch the player metres from the try line and the Saints defenders were first back and were awarded a penalty for holding on as they tried turn over possession. BBOB continued to apply pressure using the wind at their back to their advantage and keeping Saints pinned back into their half, they crossed for a try after 30 minutes, following a Saints error when they tried to play the ball out of defence and when they then tried to clear their lines the ball was charged down and the visitors were first to the ball as it crossed the line to register a converted try to take the lead. A second try followed minutes later as BBOB continued to pile on the pressure to take a 12-5 lead into halftime.
Saints' kicking game in the second half started to pay dividends with good chasing of the kicks allowing Saints to keep BBOB away from the danger area. They often caught the visitors in possession from the kicks and managed to turn over possession, from one such kick they managed to move the ball wide and flanker Tom Muat appeared on the wing to beat two defenders and cross for the try with Chris Halcrow adding the conversion from wide out to level the scores. The backs were making good inroads into the BBOB half from quick ruck ball and replacement winger David Lewis used his pace and power to cross for a try after an hour, managing to get close to the posts to allow an easier conversion for Chris Halcrow as Saints regained the lead. The final quarter was a scrappy affair as both teams looked for an elusive score with the game becoming littered with mistakes and penalties as the pressure began to build, with 2 minutes remaining Saints took the opportunity to kick a penalty, successfully converted by Chris Halcrow to provide some breathing space and ultimately deny BBOB a losing bonus point which could be very important at the end of the season.
An excellent second-half performance will see Saints sit top of the league 4 points clear of BBOB with a game in hand and 10 points clear of the chasing pack of Rugby Welsh, Northampton Mens Own and Rugby Lions who are separated by a single point in 3rd to 5th place as they head into the Christmas break. They will resume on the 6th January for the first of five consecutive weeks of matches beginning with the short trip to a much-improved Rugby Lions who will be looking to put the record straight after Saints' comfortable victory against a depleted side early in the season.