The 5th round of the NatWest Cup is traditionally when the competition really begins to motor, and this year has been no exception.
If proof were needed of that fact, then Bromsgrove v Warwick as a 5th round tie was enough to prove it, ahead of the game many observers would have said that the winner could well go all the way to Twickenham.
Having seen Bromsgrove avenge their defeat to todayâ€™s visitors earlier in the year with a 23-13 victory on their home patch, there is little to suggest that Bromsgrove might not now do just that and go all the way. Little that is other than the formidable challenges that still await in this toughest of sections.
Bromsgrove now face Bloxham in the 6th round, who defeated the very much in form Bedford Modern last time out, ahead of a likely section â€˜finalâ€™, ahead of the quarter final red-draw, against Stamford, who are unbeaten this season and do not look like giving up that record any time soon.
On todayâ€™s evidence though, Bromsgrove have it in their locker to be able to mount a very decent challenge. Having led 5-3 against last yearâ€™s finalists in the opening minutes, Warwick hit back with an outstanding final twenty minutes of the first half, turning a 5-3 deficit into a 13-5 lead thanks to two tries including one bulldozing effort off the back of a strong maul from number 8 Matt Riley.
The maul was a real weapon for both sides, each seemed strong going forward with it but struggled on the defence of it, so it was no surprise to eventually see one maul turned into points.
At that stage the feeling was the Warwick might go on to put their foot down, it was not so much that they were dominant, though they were in the ascendancy, more that having built a lead and having had such Cup experience and success, both at 1st XV and U15 levels, that they would be able to capitalise on it.
With players like Harry Bassett and Jake Byrne, who was outstanding throughout â€“ showing the full range of skills including a grubber kick and a no look over the shoulder pass as well as impressive scrummaging, they certainly had the quality of player to do so.
Credit then to Bromsgrove, who were able first to remain in touch, and then to accelerate away during the second half. Oddly, perhaps one of the most important psychological moments in the game was a penalty from Bromsgroveâ€™s fly half and captain, Luke White. With just two minutes left in the first half it reduced the score to 13-8, just giving Bromsgrove that lift going into the break.
That little lift was all they needed as the executed the perfect tactical plan in the second half, led by the outstanding White. Bromsgrove switched to a far more kick orientated game plan in near freezing conditions, with White pushing and probing away at the Warwick back three, forcing them into difficult positions and leaving them with tough decisions on how best to use the ball he was sending their way.
It did not take long for Bromsgrove to make their mark in the second half, White put his team into the Warwick 22 before a few forward rumbles created the space out wide for full back James Taylor to go flying over, with White converting the lead changed hands, with Bromsgrove now 15-13 ahead.
It shortly became 18-13 as White banged over a penalty, but Warwick were far from down and out with just over fifteen minutes left on the clock. Several times over Warwick created the overlap, with their forwards and backs interchanging well. Unfortunately for the away side, too often the final pass went awry or was spilled, perhaps the cold weather just putting too much pressure on that final pass.
For a side that regularly are praised for their ability to play in dismal conditions though, Warwick were showing all the signs of a side that can really play some rugby, Bromsgrove were ferocious on the floor though, their forward pack doing some tremendous work against what was on average a bigger Warwick pack.
The home side were not adverse to running with the ball either, after all, beyond temperature it was the perfect day to have a run, and on one such occasion it resulted in a magical score.
With just ten minutes left to play scrum half Paolo Parisi span the ball out along the short side on the Bromsgrove right. Initially it looked like a stock phase ball as the numbers were evenly matched but a well-delayed pass gave right winger Chase Edwards just enough of a weak shoulder in the Warwick defence to dance his way around before accelerating down the right wing.
Starting just inside his own half he flew down the touchline before sliding in just a few yards infield, sparking huge celebrations from players and supporters alike. With White converting it put Bromsgrove 23-13 up, crucially leaving the visitors needing two scores to win the game, and with Bromsgrove collecting the kick off with under ten minutes to play, time was not Warwickâ€™s friend.
Warwick pushed and probed valiantly though, never giving up even once time made winning the game an impossibility, but Bromsgrove held firm, continuing to play the game in Warwick territory, meaning that the away side had to go from deep inside their own half if they were to get that crucial score.
It was fitting though that the final whistle was to go with White booting the ball into touch, it was his tactical kicking and creativity in the second half that had really made the difference.
The celebrations were muted though, Bromsgrove know that this was just one stepping stone on a journey that they hope will end in a trip to Twickenham, for Warwick, unfortunately, there will be no fairytale second trip in succession to the home of rugby, but with last yearâ€™s winning U15 side moving into L6th next year, they will fancy their chances again next time around.
For Bromsgrove, the chance is still there but they know that every game form now until the end is going to be just as tough as this one.
Full Time: Bromsgrove 23-13 Warwick
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