Newark Thirds Pipped at the Post in Shield Nail-biter
By DAVID GODFREY
Newark 3rds 17, Notts Casuals 19
In a frenetic game on the neutral turf of Nottingham’s Lady Bay yesterday, an increasingly dominant Newark 3s were just edged out in the final minutes by a combative Notts Casuals 2nds.
Newark had started in crisp fashion, with Ben Skelton receiving the ball wide on the right wing and making good yards before going to ground, but Casuals managed to sneak possession and a high tackle in the ensuing melee saw Newark marched back to halfway.
This signalled a rolling series of attacks which kept Newark pinned in their own 22 for the rest of the first quarter, before a turnover on the 5m line and an offside decision against Casuals gave them the chance to move into opposition territory and go onto the offensive.
It was now Casuals’ turn to scramble in defence and they again conceded a penalty, this time in a kickable position. Johno Marshall was unlucky not to open up the Newark scoresheet for a 3-pointer, but Newark continued to press from the restart, pushing deep into the opposition 22. With scrum half Matt Walton providing quick ball behind the breakdown, Captain Alex Jackson went on the charge, popping the ball up to prop Haydn Godfrey who found half a gap and grounded the ball for the first points of the day – 5-0.
With consolidation in mind, Newark were coming back for more after the restart with Zak Briggs-Price and colt Josh Barrett carrying hard and making good yards, but Casuals managed to turn the ball over and launched an attack of their own, rolling up on the left in a series of phases, before forcing a penalty and crashing through at short range for a score of their own – 5-5 going into halftime.
Both sides had reason for optimism coming out of the break, but Newark had become increasingly dominant at the set-piece, taking ball against the head and regularly shoving Casuals off their own ball. The pressure began to tell with Casuals leaking infringements around the scrum for both feeding and foot-up, and a free kick from one of these gave Walton the chance for a quick pass to Barrett on the charge from short range to catch the defence napping – 12-5 (conv. Marshall).
Five minutes later, a scrum turnover saw the ball go wide to Skelton and colt Dan Walker on the left who made great yards before Skelton finally went to ground, giving AJ a clean carry to barrel over the line for another 5-pointer – 17-5.
With the minutes beginning to tick away, it looked like Newark were running away with it. But Casuals kept their composure, bringing on fresh legs and going back on the offensive, and taking advantage of an uncharacteristic lapse in concentration by Newark to score two well-worked tries in 5 minutes -17-19.
Having bossed the game for most of the half, Newark were now chasing it, and despite coming achingly close to taking it back with a penalty which was inches wide of the posts, it was Casuals who would emerge as the worthy victors on the day.
Gritty and determined outing by all concerned and whilst the result got away for them in the end, this was a performance to be proud of after a disjointed season.
Thanks to Stu Birch for managing the side on the day, Nottingham for hosting and Casuals for a hard-fought game – time for a well-earned break over the summer!
Tries: Haydn Godfrey, Josh Barrett, Alex Jackson
Conversions: Johno Marshall