SALISBURY found the going tough at Cheltenham – but ground out a gritty win against a very determined and physical home side.
The visitors started brightly, handling well and running the ball at every opportunity, but Cheltenham defended strongly and went into the lead after 15 minutes through open side Phillip Lucas.
The half continued in the same vein with Salisbury perhaps attempting to play too much rugby and finding themselves dispossessed in the tackle area all too often.
Salisbury lost Jack Paffett with a leg injury and Johnny Kay came into the front row.
Rory Davis exchanged kicks with Mark Whitney and half time came with Cheltenham 8-3 in front.
After the break Davis added another penalty to narrow the gap before, in what was becoming an increasingly physical contest, Cheltenham’s tight head Fraser Goatcher was sent to cool his heels in the bin.
Salisbury took full advantage of the extra man, driving hard at the home line, and Jake Williams, spotting a gap, dived over to put the visitors ahead for the first time, Davis converting from the touch line.
The home side replacement, Matthew Francis, then saw red, literally, and after a flurry of punches aimed at opposite number Bobby Saunders, was sent off.
With a quarter of the game remaining Salisbury pressed hard but were unable to add to their score, and further injuries to Saunders and Sean Barwick saw unopposed scrummages introduced, much to the relief of new tight head Ritchie Roe.
Salisbury felt that they had been robbed of a famous victory by a late try a week previously but must have brought their lucky horseshoe to this game as they were rewarded with TWO late tries.
Gordon Grant crashed over for a score after some great work at the ruck, and then “Horsey” Kay, making light of the cut in the ground, cantered in for the final score of the game.
Coach Mark Bugden was mystified at the poor decision making exhibited at times but relieved to have come through a tough challenge on the road.
Salisbury are becoming more adept at “winning ugly” when required, and this 8-23 victory certainly proves that point.
Salisbury Utd beat Bridport 36-22 in their encounter at Castle Road.
l Former Salisbury player Mike Brown won his 15th England cap in the 18-11 win over Italy at Twickenham on Saturday. He hopes to play in the Six Nations decider away to Wales this Saturday (5pm).