A BURTON side hampered by a flurry of late changes returned from Whitchurch’s Edgeley Park with nothing to show for their efforts after failing to adapt to a wind that blew straight down the pitch in the second half.
The Crofters entered the half-time break with a slender 13-10 lead, but conceded 27 points in the second period as their advantage over third-placed Hereford in Midlands One was cut to just three points.
Late withdrawals meant Eddie Nicholls, a product of the blossoming Burton Rugby Academy, was handed a spot on the bench.
Jack Walford earned his first start at scrum- half, replacing the injured Darryl Banton, with Jack Brooks coming in for Dave Archer at centre.
With seven changes in total from the original Burton squad, it was no surprise that it took time for the visitors to settle.
From the kick-off Whitchurch, who were playing into the wind, showed their intent to keep the ball tight.
Inside four minutes a driving maul led to a Whitchurch score – but the conversion attempt from out wide against the wind was always unlikely to dissect the posts.
Prompted into action, the Burton pack recycled the kick-off and exerted pressure with a couple of recycled balls. But a knock-on resulted in play being broken up.
From the resulting scrum on seven minutes, a great turnover from Damon Varney gave Burton possession.
Yet another knock-on resulted in a Whitchurch scrum, but a subsequent charge down by Briggs allowed Will Brooks to somehow feed the ball to Williams who scampered across the line to score his first try.
With the Crofters’ normal kickers injured, Matthew Boden slotted over the conversion to make the score 7-5 in Burton’s favour.
With momentum in their favour, a series of plays involving all 15 players followed – including a great run from Sam Benjamin that took play from the Burton 22 to the Whitchurch 22.
Great plays and runs from Ian Gilmour and Lawrence Betty, combined with great hits from Tivey and Varney, allowed Burton to take a semblance of control.
The Crofters received a massive blow on 17 minutes when Benjamin’s involvement in the game was ended by a stray knee, giving Nicholls his league debut on the wing.
Undeterred, Burton took advantage of a penalty on the 22 which the increasingly confident Boden slotted over to make the score 10-5 with 18 minutes gone.
The match was then dominated by the forwards from both teams – with Whitchurch intent on keeping the match tight with the wind was against them.
Despite a Burton player requesting attention the game was allowed to continue at a line-out, and the resulting maul resulted in a Whitchurch try to make the scpre 10-10.
The rest of the half proved nip and tuck with Varney, Dutton and Josh Cartwright all taking the ball into Whitchurch territory.
Yet another indiscretion at the ruck gave Burton and Boden the chance to add three points – and the kick found its mark.
Burton’s half-time team talk centred on keeping it tight with the wind now in the hosts’ favour.
But with the elements with them, Whitchurch scored two quick tries to completely turn the match on its head.
In a further blow Varney, who had enjoyed his best match for Burton in years, had to be replaced by Cook due a shoulder injury.
The Whitchurch fly-half was increasingly influential in the second period – expertly placing his kicks into the corners.
From subsequent line-outs, Whitchurch created havoc and scored a try from a rolling maul on 55 minutes to make the score 27-13.
Joe Gazzard then replaced Will Brooks and Burton’s never-say-die attitude prompted a series of plays involving Nicholls, Cartwright, Briggs and Burrough all driving the ball at Whitchurch.
Quick hands from Gilmour, Betty and Williams gave Boden space to touch down in the corner. An almost impossible conversion attempt against a gale was missed.
Unfortunately for Burton, Whitchurch then scored two well worked tries to kill the game off.
Despite trailing 37-18, Burton refused to capitulate.
In what was far from a dirty match, both teams then lost players as tempers frayed a little in the challenging conditions.
The Crofters were not able to claim a bonus point, but the last points of the match went to the visitors.
James Burrough claimed the try, capping off another great performance to make the final scoreline 37-23 in Whitchurch’s favour.