Avon Rugby 20-21 Coney Hill
Western Counties North
1st Nov 2014
By Head Coach – Clive Book
Coney Hill arrived at Avon’s Hicksfield ground undefeated at the top of Western Counties North, having gained maximum points with a try scoring bonus point in all 8 previous games so far this season.
79 minutes later with a single point lead, their unbeaten record seemed in the balance as Avon fly half Rob Fitch lined up a 45 metre penalty with the last kick of the game to secure the win that the Avon performance deserved. Agonisingly, although he had the distance, it faded just left to spark Coney Hill celebrations as they clung on to their unbeaten record.
Avon had started strongly against the league leaders, causing them all sorts of problems as they moved the large Gloucester based pack around the park with some excellent support and offload rugby. This attacking policy was rewarded when full back Stuart Dilloway, who produced an excellent all round display throughout the game, counter attacked from a clearance kick and broke the first line of the visitors’ defence. He found Ollie Flight in support who sprinted away to score under the posts after 15 mins, with Fitch adding the extras.
Unfortunately, this was to be the talented scrum half’s last contribution as he damaged a hamstring, forcing Avon to reshuffle their back line with wing Damien Sawyer coming in as a makeshift scrum half. Avon were still reorganising as they made a mess of dealing with the resulting kick off and allowed the Coney winger to hack through for a very soft try. That was to be one of the few unforced errors Avon made and they continued with their attacking policy, with Fitch slotting a penalty after 20 minutes to keep them in front at 10-5.
At this stage, it was easy to see why Coney Hill had scored so many tries this season with their muscular pack full of powerful ball carriers, the most effective of whom was ex Gloucester number 8 Andy McRae. Avon responded to this battering ram attack by courageous tackling and defensive organisation in which flanker Ian Burnell, playing in the unfamiliar role of hooker, was outstanding as he, Chris Sawyer, Kai Harwood and Scott Book racked up the tackle count.
Having withstood this onslaught, Avon should have extended their lead when they had a 7 minute spell where Coney were down to 13 men due to an off the ball spear tackle and another high tackle but they failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage. Then Coney were eventually rewarded when they finally burrowed over from short range on the stroke of half time for a 12-10 interval lead.
The visitors extended this with an early second half penalty as they decided that they needed to take any points on offer rather than seeking to score tries through the unyielding Avon defence. But this was cancelled out soon after by a monster drop goal from Fitch, only for Coney to add two more penalties to give them a flattering 8 point cushion.
With a two score deficit to overcome, Avon chased the win by increasing their tempo and putting pressure on the Coney set piece at every opportunity. This tactic paid dividends as Ben Dilloway stole a lineout before the ball was quickly transferred to the left wing where youngster James Leeming enhanced his growing reputation even further by rounding his opposite number and sprinting 35m to score in the corner. Fitch converted from the touchline to make it a one point game with 10 minutes left on the click.
It was a tense final few minutes and, with an exchange referee who liked the sound of the whistle, it was always likely that one of the two teams would get a late penalty and so it proved as Coney strayed offside in injury time, setting up the dramatic finale.
Next week Avon travel to Chosen Hill for their rearranged game which was postponed two weeks ago.
Meanwhile Avon 2nds retained their unbeaten record at the top of Somerset 3 North with a 20-13 win against Bristol Barbarians in which some adventurous running, hard hitting tackles, great defending and good tactical kicking all played their part in securing the win. Chris Hurd, Sam Book and captain Ian Ayres were outstanding up front whilst youngsters Adam, Matt, Pete and Simon also shone in an impressive all round team performance.
There is a great set of pictures to go with the match report here taken by Shaun Lafferty.