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Alcester 10, Barton 24

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: January 13, 2014

HOLDING THE LINE . . . Barton’s forwards impressed as part of an excellent defensive display against hosts Alcester on Saturday

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BARTON produced their “best” defensive display of the season to claim a first win of 2014.

The hosts were also effective in attack against lowly Alcester, with a brace of Martin Woolston tries plus a score from Robert Smith in the dying minutes.

Stand-in captain Jonathan Higgins said: “We knew how important it was to kick start 2014 with a win after a very narrow loss last week.

“Alcester played an intense match and may feel hard done to by the score-line.

“However, the defensive display was the best it has been all season and we finished effectively when presented with the chances.

“We wish Alcester the best in their relegation fight as they play a far better brand of rugby than their league position would suggest.”

Alcester came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders and were clearly up for the match – having lost at Barton in the reverse fixture.

The Midlands Four West (South) clash was a hard-fought affair in the opening quarter of an hour.

Alcester’s commitment to draw Barton in at the ruck before producing quick ball led to the hosts breaking the deadlock with a converted try for 7-0.

The pace of the game began to slow slightly with play punctuated by penalties and infringements – leading to several scrums.

Barton clearly had the upper-hand in that facet of the game, providing quality ball at the back of the scrum for No.8 Jonny Simons.

With Barton enjoying more of a foothold in the game space began to open up – and with some bruising runs from the likes of Simon Till and Robert Smith an overlap was created.

Martin Woolston exploited the gap, sidestepping Alcester’s full back to score neatly under the posts. Jon Shum followed up with the conversion.

Barton claimed possession from the restart and took play back to Alcester.

The hosts then conceded a penalty just inside their 10-metre line. Jon Shum – feeling in confident mood – stepped up to the plate and converted well.

Barton looked to be taking the game by the scruff of the neck and duly went on to dominate Alcester’s scrum.

Simons appeared to have grounded the ball after a pick-and-go from the back of the scrum.

But the referee ruled that the ball had been help up and the scrum was reset.

Barton once again demolished the Alcester scrum, but to the away side’s amazement the referee penalised the hosts for trying to illegally turn the scrum – despite Alcester’s prop boring in.

The decision was harsh on the hosts who could very easily have been awarded a penalty try.

With that decision not going in favour of Matt Bird’s side, the first half finished with Barton enjoying a 10-7 lead.

After the break, with Barton playing up the slope, the visitors knew they would have their work cut out.

Alcester, in similar fashion to the start of the first half, started the brighter with 10 to 15 phases of play, and were camped on Barton’s five-metre line.

But the visitors were resolute in defence and gave nothing away, eventually winning turnover ball.

With Alcester overexposed in attack, Woolston got around his opposite number and with no covering Alcester full-back, he sprinted the length of the pitch for his second try.

The conversion was added to increased Barton’s advantage to 17-7.

Although Alcester were clearly deflated, they managed to keep the pressure on with a penalty kick 10 minutes later to reduce the deficit to 17-10.

The hosts were only a converted try from drawing level, but with valiant defending across the park Alcester looked unlikely to go over the line.

Barton’s pack eventually claimed possession – but kicked the ball away to gift Alcester one last counter-attack.

Alcester looked to spread the ball round, but rolling substitute Robert Smith, who had just returned to the field, intercepted to run under the posts to make the final score 24-10.

Barton are likely to face a tougher Midlands Four West (South) test this Saturday.

Higgins said : “We are at home to rival promotion contenders Atherstone and know that a sterner forwards test presents itself.

“After a high-scoring narrow defeat to them at their place we hope for a reverse in the result come Saturday afternoon.”

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