ECCLESHALL 1ST XV 9 HANDSWORTH 1ST XV 8
ECCLESHALL fly half Tom Hodgkinson’s trusty right boot proved the difference as the Baden Hall side chalked up their opening league win of the season on Saturday.
Fixtures between these two sides have always been hotly contested.
But with the loss to Handsworth in last season’s Staffs Intermediate Cup final still fresh, Eccleshall captain Nick Hulse did not have too many words of encouragement to his team before the match.
It was clear from the outset that this was not going to be a great exhibition of running rugby, more an arm wrestle between two sets of forwards with intermingled, sporadic breaks by the Eccleshall back line.
First points on the board came from Eccleshall as Handsworth’s lumbering forwards were penalised at the break down. Hodgkinson stepped up and kicked the 30 metre penalty.
Eccleshall were soon back on the attack, but a loose kick did not find touch and Handsworth countered deep in to home territory and the Baden Hall forwards were found wanting.
Quick ruck ball was thrown to Handsworth’s pacey winger who scored in the corner. The conversion was missed.
As half-time approached, Eccleshall were again on the back foot, but dogged defence from the home side’s centre’s, Mark Howells and Chris Walley ensured that Handsworth remained outside the Eccleshall 22, eventually leading to a second home penalty, put away by Hodgkinson.
Handsworth responded with an early second half penalty to move 8-6 ahead, but Eccleshall were not to be denied sweet revenge.
With ten minutes remaining, good work from Eccleshall flankers Tom O’Mara and Jake Brown at the breakdown saw Eccleshall awarded a penalty, 25 metres out to the right of the posts and Hodgkinson obliged once more.
In a tense final few minutes, Eccleshall held their opponents at bay to claim a much-welcome victory. It proved a good day for Eccleshall, as the 2nd XV visited Stafford and ran out 33-7 winners.