TEWKESBURY 34 PAINSWICK 14
A MUST-WIN game for the Moat Men ended with Tewkesbury seeing off the challenge of county rivals Painswick to claim a vital Gloucester Premier victory.
Starting brightly, captain Paul Baker slotted an early penalty for the hosts as some poor Painswick tackles were capitalised upon in midfield.
From the resulting kick-off Tewkesbury began to turn the screw with flanker Tom Crane, number eight Liam Mellor and prop Henry Compton carrying well and Craig Innocent and Jason Partridge dominant at the breakdown.
The first try arrived after a booming penalty from Ben Bowers set up good field position and some fine set-piece work from prop Chris Jones and lock Tom Schule saw the ball recycled quickly.
Outside centre Matt Stone ran through a poor tackle from the visiting fly-half and off-loaded to on-rushing full-back Will Hartland who dived over for the try. Baker converted for a 10-0 lead.
And superb pressure from the kick-off once more saw Tewkesbury's new-signing Russell Coleman win the ball back and feed James Bowers who passed for Hartland to score again. Baker converted.
The pressure was maintained and Painswick were unable to make any headway into the 17-0 scoreline before the whistle was blown for half-time.
Tewkesbury started the second half much in the same vein as the first and with quick ball from the back of the scrum set piece move.
Crane now at second row, beautifully offloaded a pass on the 22 for Baker to hand off and step the covering defence to score in the corner and add the conversion himself.
With wingers Gareth Mcmahon and Mike Jordan putting pressure on the opposition when they kicked deep, the Tewkesbury team kept the foot on the pedal for most of the second half.
However after lapses in concentration and a reshuffled defence, Painswick managed to gain two quick tries with good loose play by their forwards and back taking the score to 24-14.
Tewkesbury looked likely to capitulate, but with full focus from the whole team and exceptional breakdown skills from replacement Flanker Tom Wilkinson, they managed to regroup.
A scrum was won on the Painswick 22 and the pack shoved their opponents backwards, with the referee awarding a penalty for their efforts.
With the pack sensing blood another scrum was called and after good control from Mellow, James Hartland dived over for another score. Although for once, Baker missed the extras.
Painswick tried to build the pressure, but relentless control in the defence meant Tewkesbury pushed further and further into the Painswick half.
From a breakdown, replacement prop Rob Bryne crashed the ball forwards and good hands from Mellor and Crane fed Baker who raced home for his second try and seal a crucial bonus point victory.
The five-point haul for the Painswick victory means that a revitalised Tewkesbury's battle to beat the drop from the the Gloucester Premier table has received a welcome boost.