Whitehall hang on for the points, but it was a close-run encounter
WHITEHALL held on for a 10-8 success in an 80-minute mud wrestle against basement battlers St Mary's Old Boys to move up a place to sixth in Gloucester Premier.
The home side's stronger, heavier pack established a key edge in the scrums and adopted an effective pick and go approach in the extremely heavy conditions to deny Mary's possession for long spells in the second period.
No 8 Richard 'Badger' Haycock had an immense influence on proceedings, taking charge of the line-out, consistently making ground from the back of the scrum and constantly exhorting more from his team-mates.
Yet Mary's committed defence soaked up relentless pressure and the visitors could even have sneaked the result in the last seconds when they finally broke upfield and earned a penalty only to see Carl Stephens' kick fade under the crossbar.
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Skipper Dean Weaver admitted there was plenty of relief in the home camp. He said: "We really needed this win, particularly after the way we lost the previous week to Southmead. Hopefully, we can start to put some results together. It's not been easy recently, because of injuries we've used 40 players in the first team this season which at least shows we have strength in depth, but people are now starting to come back."
Sam Pearcey put Whitehall on the board with a 12th-minute penalty, cancelled out soon after by a Stephens effort in front of the posts.
And Mary's then claimed the lead with a well-worked try, Stephens releasing Josh Goddard, a flanker playing on the wing, who showed good strength to elude two tacklers and crash over in the corner, the conversion going wide. Whitehall stepped up the tempo after the turnaround and were rewarded with what proved to be the decisive points in the 51st minute, hard-running centre Dane Weaver prising open the visitors and offloading to supporting flanker James Trent-Kerr, who dived over from close range, Pearcey converting.
Mary's found it hard to get their hands on the ball in the final quarter, but battled away on the back foot to give coach Dave Healy hope for the relegation battle which lies ahead.
He said: "We stuck at it pretty well. This kind of pitch does not suit the type of game we try to play, but it's something we've got to get used to."
Leaders Frampton Cotterell flew out of the blocks to run in four tries in the first 20 minutes and set up a fine 36-19 success at Widden.
Scrum-half Dominic Pullin touched down in each half, while there were also scores from centre Jon Pritchard, No 8 Rob Keir, winger Mike Jordan and lock Sam Adams who took the man-of-the-match plaudits for his non-stop work. Matt Lawrence weighed in with three conversions.
Third-placed Southmead were emphatic 43-0 victors in their derby clash at Saracens, No 8 Rhys Davies powering over for four tries.
Greg Welling (2) and Ben Stallard also crossed with Rob Haddow landing four conversions, while up front the Mitchard brothers, Scott and Shane, teamed up at prop for the first time this season with devastating results to keep Southmead third.
In Gloucester One, Aretians were 31-0 home victors over Cheltenham Civil Service with tries coming from No 8 Neil Dix, prop Billy Head – who collected his own grubber to touch down – lock Nigel Brentnall and impressive blindside Merv Lawrence, Dan Ferriday booting the remaining points.