Gloucester Premier League

Whitehall 0 Chipping Sodbury 22

CHIPPING Sodbury made it 13 Gloucester Premier League wins this season to stay top of the table after beating lowly Whitehall.

Indeed, Sodbury were able to deny the home side a score.

A sodden pitch and slick ball were going to be as tough to master.

The opening exchanges were robust but Sodbury were able to contain everything Whitehall tried.

The Sodbury defence was led by Luke Balentine-Smith and Dave Guest, while the open spaces were patrolled by Dom Pullen, Jon Cook, and Joe Horton.

The set piece was also a happy hunting ground for the visitors.

The scrum operated with authority, allowing hooker Guest to take four against the head.

The line-out, however, was where Sodbury had the most success. Dave Turner announced his return to first team rugby with a personal haul of five wins of the Whitehall throw out of a total of seven.

The only score of the half went to Sodbury on 10 minutes. Whitehall infringed on their own 22.

Cook somehow found a suitably firm patch of turf for his standing foot and fired the ball between the uprights for a 0 – 3 lead.

Sodbury enjoyed an avalanche of possession, but each time they looked to build pressure they infringed themselves, which ultimately let Whitehall off the hook.

The visitors were left with little doubt as to where their first-half shortcomings lay after a half-time dressing-down from Harvey Skelton and Matt Dew.

With their wise words ringing in their ears, Sodbury set off with renewed vigour, and also introduced Jake Lewis at full-back, which paid off minutes later.

Sodbury were soaking up the pressure on their own 22 to such a degree that Whitehall elected to kick to the boggy bottom corner.

Dan Bradley got his arms up and charged down.

He started to dribble the ball upfield and was joined by Cook until 10 metres out, when Cook fell on the ball to create a ruck.

Rapid recycling found pace-man Joe Horton, who attracted three defenders – only for him to slip the ball to Lewis, who dived over.

Whitehall kept their attack fairly narrow, while Sodbury believed in their handling ability, bringing Horton increasingly into the contest.

Running the hosts’ big men around seemed to be working when Matt Cook turned the ball over on halfway.

Sodbury then tore through six phases to start to worry the tryline.

Tom Head picked up at the base of a ruck and drew the defence before popping the ball up to Bradley, who scored easily. Cook converted.

Sodbury’s third try was a spectacular show of total rugby. Lewis fielded Whitehall’s long kick in his 22, his pass after 20 metres found Horton, who cut infield. He evaded many defenders, eventually, he was slowed enough to involve the forwards.

Five rucks later, the ball found Cook, who was galloping in support up the blindside.

He rounded the first man easily, but the second showed him the outside.

He took it with a change of pace that belied the soggy conditions, eating up the last 40 metres to score. Fortunately, the kicking tee took a while to materialise so he had a chance to get his breath back before converting his own try.

The last ten minutes of the game saw the hosts rejuvenated. They came at Sodbury hard. However, Sodbury held on and there was one man who was particularly lion-hearted in the close-quarter combat.

Tom Head chopped, wrapped and drove backwards all-comers.

His work amongst the heavy traffic was mirrored by Dave Mouatt out wide.

He patrolled his wing, prepared to introduce anyone who came near to his flinty shoulder, which he did regularly, to cheers from the travelling support.