Thu 13 Feb 2020 09:44

Shire Hall came out on top in a game where the cliché a ‘game of two halves’ most definitely applied.

Playing with the wind behind them in the first half Shire Hall scored almost immediately with Rhys Stewart finishing off a well-executed strike move out wide. The conversion was added from out wide by Rhys, followed by a penalty in front of the sticks minutes later (10-0).

Phoenix got a foothold into the game with a penalty of their own soon after, before narrowing the lead to just two points with a rolling maul close to the Shire Hall line (conversion missed).

The rest of the half was spent in Phoenix territory, with the home side being thwarted by a lack of execution at crucial stages. Another penalty from Rhys Stewart extended the lead to 13-8, before on the stroke of half term Shire Hall got the score their play deserved. Lovely hands in the loose from flankers Elliott McNamara and Chris Wiseman down the flank opened up space for second row Olly Jarrett to gallop in and score just wide of the posts. This gave Shire Hall a half time lead of 20 – 8 with the half time message being to put their foot down and push for the four try bonus point win.

Despite the half time message, the reality was Phoenix were galvanised by having the conditions in their favour turned the second half into a dog fight. A sloppy start to the second half allowed Phoenix to punish a number of turnovers and penalties by kicking deep into Shire Hall territory aided by the strong wind. This culminated in the best part of ten minutes of goal line defence (including a stand out last ditch tackle by Darren Choules) before finally off the back of a 5 metre scrum the Phoenix number 8 managed to barrel his way over for an unconverted score. Almost immediately after this Phoenix were back into Shire Hall territory with Shire Hall infringing again, this time the points were kicked and the score stood at 20-16.

At this point knowing they were in a real game Shire Hall ‘switched on’ with the error count reducing and the half backs taking control of the game. For the final twenty minutes the ball was kept secure and hard yards were made up the pitch with Phoenix now being the team pinged more frequently. The final play of the game saw Phoenix try to play out from the line, before Chris Wiseman turned the ball over and the ball was kicked out for the Shire Hall win. Final score 20 -16.

Despite not being a vintage performance, Shire Hall got the win in tough conditions against a physical team. The disappointment in not having won more comfortably is testament to how far the team has come. Elliott McNamara was named man of the match for his industrious work around the pitch both in attack and defence.