Stourbridge Lions 17

Whitchurch 19

Coach Scott Sturdy praised Whitchurch’s resilience after consolidating fourth spot in the Midlands 1 West with a hard-fought win at Stourbridge Lions.

Victory, their third in a row, means the Reds are now eight points off the pace after leaders Newbold-on-Avon suffered their first defeat of the season at home to Dudley Kingswinford.

It’s now a three-way tie at the top of the table involving Newbold, Bromsgrove and DK, with Whitchurch the next highest, and facing another big clash at home to Sutton Coldfield on Saturday (2.15pm).

The West Midlands outfit will arrive at Edgeley Park just one place and six points below their hosts.

And Sturdy believes the Reds can take plenty of heart from their spirited victory in Stourbridge after being on the back foot for much of the first half.

The visitors were disrupted even before the first whistle in Stourbridge, with a number of players unavailable, but responded with another resolute display, with Matt Owen making a welcome return in the second row.

“This was a difficult game, so we’re happy to take a win in any form away from home,” said Sturdy.

“It was very pleasing, particularly the second half performance, and this showed our winning mentality in a game we would have lost a few years ago.”

“To come back from 12-7 down at half time, having two yellow cards, and with them having all the ball in the first half, shows the resilience of the team.

“We had a good chat at half time, and came out more assertive and supporting the ball better.

“We showed we can think coolly under pressure, execute opportunities when they arise, and be resilient in defence.”

He added: “To go there with seven or eight lads missing shows we have developed a strength in depth now.

“We’ve now got huge game against Sutton Coldfield on Saturday as we can open up a 10-point gap on them with a win.”

The Reds hope to be bolstered by the return of a number of players, buthave suffered a setback with flanker James Hockenhull set to miss several weeks with a knee ligament injury,

After suffering back-to-back defeats, Stourbridge Lions were up for the fight – and their performance hardly reflected their mixed results this season as they dominated much of the first half.

Despite being forced to reshuffle their line-up, Whitchurch started well and were soon ahead when, after the home side had conceded six straight penalties, hooker Darren Blackhurst drove over from a line-out, with Tom Skone converting.

But the Reds found themselves on the back foot after that, and after flanker James Hockenhull was yellow carded, were breached by their hosts when Jack Noott dummied and went over for a try wide out, well converted by centre Elliot Hopkin.

The Lions found their way over the line a second time when a scrum and backs move led to Nick Mann scoring in the other corner for a 12-7 interval lead.

The Reds started the second half without number eight Jack Furnvival, who became their second player to be yellow carded just before the interval.

Ryan Horton linked with centre Henry Hockenull who went over close to the posts for a well-worked try, Skone adding the extras.

Then the visitors forced their way over from a line-out through captain Jonathan Cope for an unconverted score.

The Lions, though, were back in contention when Scotty Langdon worked his way over right in the corner, but fortunately for the visitors, Hopkin’s conversion fell just short.

The hosts then had a penalty, but opted to kick for field position, which failed to pay off as Whitchurch repelled the late attack.