BURTON started and ended their game againstWalsall with poor spells that led to a heavy defeat in their first match of 2013.
With some last minute changes in the front-row again not helping the Crofters’ preparations for the trip to Delves Road in Midlands One (West), they came away empty-handed.
During the initial poor start, the visitors’ opposite numbers ran up a 20-point lead, and although Burton fought back to 23-19, they undid all this good work with a disastrous ending that saw them concede 21 points.
The Crofters kicked off on a heavy but largely dry surface, and both teams knocked on before Walsall kicked into the 22, from where the visitors conceded the first try.
Walsall secured the lineout, probed the defence in centre-field and spun the ball back to the left wing, where winger Greenslade touched down.
The conversion kick was off target bit the hosts were in the lead after just three minutes.
Tom Murphy and Jason Knight halted two subsequent Walsall attacks with thumping tackles before the Walsall fullback retrieved his own up and under and Burton conceded a penalty before being were marched back 10 metres after voicing their dissent.
Walsall’s Wood kicked the penalty to extend their lead to eight points.
They kept the Crofters on the back foot with their kicking tactics and Sam Smith was very busy making some very good catches and marks as the hosts’ kicked for territory whenever the chance was available.
A further penalty and kick for touch set the home pack up to catch and drive for a further unconverted try on the quarter of an hour mark.
At last Burton began to get into the game with carries from Sam Smith, Jono Edwards, Josh Cartwright and Kieran Hawketts.
However, they were out of sorts in both the scrummage and lineout, gaining less than 50 per cent of their own ball, which meant they could not gain any lasting momentum.
Walsall again pushed up field and after disrupting a scrummage under the posts, their No 8 Simpson barged over to score and the conversion established a comfortable 20-0 lead.
Burton retrieved their own re-start before Murphy and Edwards crashed forward.
Darryl Banton dummied a pass to his backs before cutting back through the traffic to cross for a try which he then converted, and with the score 20-7 after half an hour, the Crofters were finally on the scoreboard.
Both sides weathered some pressure before the break as play swung from end to end.
Flankers Keifer Laxton and Joel Briggs clashed heads while stopping the same attacker and a dazed Briggs was replaced by Steve Cross.
Burton then conceded yet another penalty and Wood’s successful kick made the half-time score-line 23-7.
Edwards fielded the kick off and fed Ken Archer who took several defenders with him to set up a ruck.
From quick ball, Lewis Brooks sped through a gap in the centre, crossing half way before side-stepping the fullback and touching down for Banton to make the conversion.
Cartwright was hoisted by Murphy and Knight to take the re-start before Luke Peach boomed a kick back into the Walsall half.
Good pressure from Burton kept the hosts pinned back and Steve Cross took a lineout at the tail and a sniping run from Danny Smith saw him well, supported by Hawketts who established quick ball for Peach.
His perfect little grubber kicked ended in space and then, when following up, calmly side-footed the ball into the path of left-wing Tom Cooper, who took his opportunity to pick-up and race in to score.
Although Banton’s conversion attempt narrowly missed its target, his side looked a good bet trailing 23-19, and having been dominant since the break.
Burton rang the changes and Laxton was replaced by debutant Ali Weedon and Lawrence Betty, now fully fit following injury, came on to replace Brooks as the Crofters looked for a crucial score.
But Walsall had other thoughts and had a great opportunity on a large open-side with men over against the visitors’ forwards but squandered it with a forward pass.
Burton put together several multi-phase attacks but lacked real penetration as the committed home defence bottled them up.
With both sides battling for control and only 15 minutes left on the clock it was Walsall who gained supremacy.
After a driving lineout they won a scrum and drove the scrummage forward and Simpson crossed for a telling score and the conversion that stretched their lead to eleven points.
Once again Burton secured the re-start but a knock-on halted the attack and Walsall relieved the pressure and kicked back into the Burton half.
An injury to Hawketts saw Laxton return to replace him forcing the versatile Edwards to move forward to play prop.
Walsall sealed victory with a well executed cross-kick to the right winger who slipped the ball back in-field to Weaver who scored under the sticks, converted by Wood, before a final attack from a weary looking Burton broke down and Walsall opened up the field to score the best try of game.
The dismal, closing 10 minutes spell saw some of Burton’s players bickering amongst themselves rather than just getting on with the game and trying to salvage some pride.