Knutsford thrill crowds on home turf.
Knutsford hosted league leaders Oldershaw on Saturday in what proved to be a thrilling encounter and one of the performances of the last 5 seasons. Weakened by the loss of Fishburn, Coulbeck, Edmonds, Dawson, Higgins, Perry and Williams, the management had reason for concern given the 60-0 loss the team had suffered in the away fixture before Christmas. That said some positive attitudes throughout the team ensured that they were determined not to let their unbeaten opponents leave without a fight.
The opening ten minutes set the tone, as right from the kick off the Knutsford pack destroyed phase after phase of Oldershaw possession. The back row (average age 18!) of Dan Layzell, Ed Snook and Max Crawford set about who could claim the highest tackle count of the day, whilst Giles Robertson and co embarked on a counter rucking lesson their England colleagues should watch!
The pressure created by the pack was matched through the backline as sterling defensive work was being completed by Oli Mooney, Ric Walker and Robin Maxell. On the occasions Knutsford didn’t turn over the ball they pressured the Oldershaw backline into a mistake or kick. Adam Elleray, Walker and Mooney made effective decisions to run or kick and Knutsford found themselves beginning to dominate territory.
The pace was relentless and as Knutsford became tired Oldershaw kicked into life on 25 minutes. A poor lineout was followed by further mistakes and a loss of some twenty metres and after several phases the Oldershaw centre crossed under the posts, however the conversion was missed. Knutsford were more determined and worked the way back down the pitch thanks to debutant Crawford winning nearly 100% of lineout ball that came anywhere near him.
This resulted in several Penalties, all quickly taken which ended with a surge for the line made by Crawford who touched down in the corner. It was a close call however the Oldershaw protests proved too much for the referee, who sin binned the Oldershaw Lock and Right Winger. Elleray slipped on the horrendous surface and missed the Conversion, to leave it 5-5 at half time.
The second half was a tale of guts and determination. The home side did not threaten to score, instead efforts were focussed on keeping the attacking side out, tackle after tackle, scrum after scrum the never say die attitude of the whole team was epitomised in every single player. Where tackles were missed a team mate would cover and fell the opponent. And on the occasions Oldershaw put a move together they made a critical mistake. First the Left Winger dropped an easy pass with the line beckoning, then the No 8 knocked on as they looked for a pushover try. Two penalty attempts also failed to go over.
Knutsford had survived a stern test from their opponents, who having been encamped in the Knutsford 22 Oldershaw grew more frustrated and lost another Second Row and a Prop to the sin bin, both for foul play.Despite being two men up, Knutsford were tired and the Penalty count against them was rising. They lost Chris Vincent with a Shoulder Injury and were lucky not to lose any more men to the sin bin.
The game entered the final moments with Oldershaw attacking. A moment of stupidity saw an arm appear from the bottom of a ruck, preventing the Oldershaw Scrum Half from playing the ball, to concede a Penalty. The kicker was changed and the kick was slotted for Oldershaw to take the win 5-8 as the ref blew for full time.
Despite the loss this was an incredible result for Knutsford from which they should take great pride. Having played a quarter of the game with 13 men it could be argued that Knutsford should have won the game, but given the quality and strength of their opponents and the dreadful condition of the pitch that would be a harsh criticism. The team must take inspiration from the performance and ensure they Win away at Prenton next Saturday, Kick off 2:15pm
Full match photogallery: http://pictures.knutsfordtimes.com/krfc_v_oldershaw/
Official Knutsford Rugby Club Website: http://www.knutsfordrugby.com
Jonathan Farber: http://www.farber.co.uk