Upton downed in second half

Upton downed in second half

Upton downed in second half

First published in Sport

UPTON’S North Midlands Shield run hopes came to an early end with a poor second-half display in a 38-20 home defeat to Harborne.

With a lot of squad changes, the Old Street side had a different look about them, particularly in the backs.

Perhaps the changes ultimately led to the self-destruct button that was seemingly pressed at half-time in the first-round encounter.

Harborne accepted the Upton kick-off and, after recycling, span the ball wide and ran the length of the field to score a converted try.

The Birmingham visitors soon doubled the advantage.

After sending the ball out wide, this time they were held up by the Upton defence but worked it back the other way for a second try under the posts.

Upton knew they had to start playing and slowly their dominant, rampaging forwards exerted influence on the game.

Chris O’Neil got them on the scoreboard with a penalty before George Ainge chased through a grubber kick from fly-half Ollie Cooke to score out wide and make it 14-8.

Upton soon got within a point when again the forwards, through Matt Dunwell, Max Macfarlane and Rob Heeley, drove the ball forward.

Once again, the fly-half put through a grubber kick for Ainge and this time the powerful winger was tackled but able to slip a pass out for the supporting Cooke to score.

Upton’s turnaround was completed before half-time when – after a break by Dunwell and Benji Airdrie – Cooke put in a third grubber kick and full-back Joe Ayres won the race to the bouncing ball to score beneath the posts.

O’Neil converted to make it 20-14 at the break.

With their tails up, Upton perhaps naively thought they had done enough to win the game.

Player-coach Stu Brooks could have extended their lead early in the second-half but Dan Hart’s pass to him was harshly adjudged forward and then the game turned.

Harborne capitalised on a mistake when Heeley failed to hook his own scrum ball and the visitors span the ball wide to score.

Then, from a missed line-out, they again quickly sent the ball wide and scored a fourth try.

Upton’s heads were down and, despite trying to find a way back into the game, the harder they tried, the more mistakes they made.

Every time the hosts coughed up the ball, Harborne seemed to have spare men outside to score.

They rattled up another two converted tries to make the final score 38-20.

Despite this loss, Upton are now in the North Midlands Shield Plate and have been drawn at home to another first-round losing team in county rivals Pershore tomorrow.

Ledbury join them in the consolation competition with a home game against Aston Old Edwardians on Saturday.

They fell to a 17-3 home defeat against Edwardian in the Shield last weekend.

Promoted Newent begin life in Tribute Western Counties North on Saturday with a visit from Bristol Saracens.

The Midlands League season kicks off for local clubs a week on Saturday.

In Division Three West (South), Upton will host Cheltenham North and Ledbury will visit Pershore.

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