Burntwood 22 Willenhall 35
Willenhall’s strong finish to the season saw them add third placed Burntwood to their recent run of victories.
The visitors opened the New Year with six defeats which saw them slide into the relegation places but they have stormed away from danger with five straight wins.
Even so, in this game there was only one point in it with seven minutes to go but, to reflect their season, Willenhall finished the stronger to score two tries.
Burntwood made a good start infront of a large crowd at The Sportsway. Probing for openings in the first ten minutes, they were rewarded when the visitors conceded a penalty in their own 22. Brett Taylor tapped the ball to himself, went through a couple of defenders and fought his way over the line for the opening try, converted by Aza Dunet.
Willenhall replied with a penalty goal three minutes later before Burntwood were on the attack again. Owen Rookyard featured in a run against the grain then Lloyd Dunet went close. Possession was maintained and Josh Canning stretched over for a try on 18 minutes which Dunet converted.
Willenhall came back strongly, helped by a penalty award which was kicked to the corner. The catch and drive attempt was held up and then Alan Mapp secured a turnover with a solid tackle from the ensuing scrum.
However, it was only a temporary respite as from their next scrum in the home 22 the Willenhall outside half darted through a gap for a try under the posts which was comfortably converted.
Ten minutes from half time a catch and drive from Burntwood almost extended the lead and then left winger Rob Jones was tackled into touch in the visitors’ 22.
Unfortunately, flanker Sean Brennan, who has been one of Burntwood’s stand out players all season, suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Ian Jones.
Willenhall made it a one point game with a penalty on 33 minutes but back came the hosts, prompted by Taylor and Rookyard, only for Jones to be tackled into touch again.
The visitors took the lead just five minutes into the second period. A penalty award presented them with good field position in the home 22. A second award was tapped by the scrum half and he exposed some flimsy tackling to go in for the try.
Burntwood responded with a fine kick to the clubhouse corner by Ben Holt. Canning’s line out take was not rewarded but Holt’s next intervention was to break superbly into the opposition half, having been fed by Taylor. Willenhall infringed and Dunet made it 17-18 with the penalty goal.
On the hour mark, a kick to the left corner had the home defence in trouble. They conceded a five metre scrum from which the visitors squeezed over in the corner.
Twelve minutes later, after Mapp had gone close and Taylor was held up twice over the line, Rookyard made ground from a scrum. He was brought down near the line but Holt was there to dot down for 22-23.
Back came Willenhall, breaking upfield right and then left to be held up over the line. From the five metre scrum the outside half darted his way over for a 78th minute try.
A penalty against at the restart cost the hosts the chance of a final comeback. Twice the big Willenhall forwards went close before their veteran tight head prop crossed in the corner after seven minutes of added time. The fine conversion was the last kick of the game.
Burntwood did what they have done for much of the season in attack but struggled to penetrate or finish several opportunities whilst there were some question marks against their first up defence.
The 2nd XV rounded off their season with a 21-12 win away to Willenhall 2nds. Try scorers were Dan Garrity and Josh Maddox (2). Skipper Nick Peplow’s boot supplied the other six points.
Burntwood set the seal on a positive season with the club AGM on 18th May followed by their Annual Dinner and Presentation Evening two days later on Saturday, 20th May when Craig Newby (former All Black and Leicester Tiger) is the guest speaker. Both events will take place in the clubhouse.