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Newent win league title ahead of national semi-finals
2:50pm Thursday 17th April 2014 in Rugby
AMBITIOUS Newent won the Gloucester Premier Division ahead of their RFU Senior Vase national semi-final at Harrow on Saturday (3pm).
In a dramatic end to the league season, Newent called on all their resources of energy and spirit to beat Bristol Saracens 17-5 and claim the title on points difference.
They missed the injured Joe Goatley but were otherwise at full strength, knowing they had to win by a margin of eight points to deny leaders Saracens a bonus point.
More than 500 people flocked to the Recreation Ground and were rewarded with a pulsating, high-quality match between two well-matched, committed sides.
A westerly breeze blowing diagonally down the pitch played an important role and Newent used it well in their favour in the first-half.
James Dean and Will Mansfield provided long kicks but a big hoof from winger Brett Gardner led to them getting off the mark after two minutes.
Saracens’ defence failed to deal with the kick and were penalised at a ruck on their 22 with Newent inside-centre Ross Webb slotting the regulation three-pointer.
The visitors were pressured into offending again at a ruck and Webb kicked the penalty to take Newent’s lead to 6-0.
From the restart, Dean’s long kick was fumbled by the full-back and, from the resulting scrum, the ball was moved along to left winger Dominic Matthews, who finished well in the corner.
Webb’s conversion drifted wide but he landed a third penalty from a difficult angle close to half-time to make it 14-0.
Saracens dominated territory and possession in the second period but Newent’s superb defence held firm except on one occasion in the final quarter.
The visitors secured their line-out and although an initial drive was held up, number eight Laurence Collison had the strength to drive again and stretch over the line for the touchdown.
The conversion went wide and Newent survived a few more scares before Webb kicked a fourth penalty to stretch the lead to 12 points.
Saracens could not claim the crucial losing bonus point and the title was Newent's, securing them promotion to Western Counties North.
Now Newent aim for a return visit to Twickenham, where they won the RFU Junior Vase last year, with a victory over Harrow, who top London Three North West.
Meanwhile, Ledbury lost 45-0 at title-chasing Pinley in Midlands Three West (South).