SALISBURY Rugby Club’s miserable run of form continued when they suffered a 15-12 defeat in their EDF Intermediate Cup first round tie at Wallingford, letting a substantial lead slip away for the second time in three weeks.
The Oxfordshire side, with four wins from their opening South West Two (East) fixtures are lying third in the table, and with Salisbury languishing third from bottom, the tie always promised to be challenging. From the kick off, Wallingford went on the offensive.
When a Salisbury player broke early from a scrum, Wallingford stepped up to convert the penalty and open the scoring. From the restart, Salisbury gained good field position, Liam Gilbert receiving good line-out ball and accelerating away to score close to the posts, before adding the conversion himself.
Soon after, an attempted interception by Phil Carr was dropped and Salisbury handed valuable possession back to the home side. Christian Metson, Gareth Black-borow and Jack Fishwick did well to spare Salisbury’s blushes, stepping in to stifle the Wallingford counterattack.
From another scrummage, Rob Larcombe found Johnny Campbell-Jones who ran in to extend Salisbury’s lead.
They could have forged even further ahead when Wallingford’s restart kick did not travel ten metres, yielding possession and, ultimately, presenting an opportunity for Misselbrook to break, only for him to drop the ball just short of the line.
Only Salisbury’s mistakes allowed Wallingford any say in the first half. As half-time approached, Salisbury lost some momentum but morale was given a timely boost when Fishwick broke clear from the lineout to cross for a try.
Wallingford started the second half in determined mood.
Twice the home side cleared their lines well to push Salisbury back up the field and force them onto the back foot.
At the same time, Salisbury’s mistake count shot up, gifting Wallingford possession, which they put to good use, shipping the ball wide and attacking at every opportunity.
From a scrummage in midfield, Wallingford’s big number four ran straight from a lineout but was cut down short of the line. The referee judged that Salisbury had deliberately knocked the ball down but the visitors were given a reprieve when Wallingford missed their penalty kick.
First team debutant Finlay Bibby marshalled the cover defence well but could not move wide enough to prevent Wallingford’s speedy winger sneaking through to score an opportunist try.
Tom Pottage went on a positive run up the centre, and looked likely to restore Salisbury’s points cushion, only to be brought back for a previous offence.
Again, costly mistakes from their own lineout left Salisbury hemmed in their own 22 and under pressure.
Late on, Wallingford took the lead for the first time in the match, muscling their way over under the posts to set up the easiest of conversions.
With the minutes ticking away, Salisbury frantically tried to play catch-up but lacking fluency and struggling for sustained possession, they were scarcely able to get out of their own half.
Frustrated by their second-half showing, they called time on their all-too-brief cup campaign.
The Castle Road side will hope to return to winning ways when they host basement boys Reading Abbey on Saturday at 3pm.