North Midlands staged a superb comeback to snatch a breathless 56-56 draw against Warwickshire in the County Championship Second Division South at Rugby today.
North Midlands appeared to be heading for a second successive heavy defeat when they went 42-17 down seven minutes into the second half but Moseley Oak centre Tom Johnson led the fightback with four tries on his county debut.
Player/coach Mark Evans (Old Halesonians) made his presence felt. when he came on as a replacement and crossed for a try with the final play of the match but Stourbridge fly-half Rod Petty was unable to convert from the touchline.
A draw was just about a fair result as both sides contributed to frenetic contest which featured 17 tries with North Midlands edging the try count 9-8. But Warwickshire fly-half Ben Palmer converted all of their tries while Petty landed four conversions and a penalty for North Midlands.
It was end-to-end stuff and richly entertaining for the spectators but nerve-jangling for the coaches as both sides were guilty of slack defending before they settled for three points each.
North Midlands will feel more satisfied with the result even though they shipped 50 points for the second successive week. The unavailability of seven of the side that faced Hampshire meant they had little time to prepare for thus match but, after a rusty start, they played with increasing confidence.
Warwickshire relied mainly on the pace of Coventry pair James Stokes and Max Trimble who scored seven of their eight tries.
Wing Trimble scored four tries and full-back Stokes a hat-trick, both of them tormenting North Midlands’ defence throughout.
North Midlands were still finding their feet when Stokes scored his first two tries with Palmer converting both. But North Midlands rallied and pulled to within two points when Stourbridge wing Josh Trinham showed his paces and Worcester wing Cael Hodgson gathered a chip Petty.
Petty added the conversion but North Midlands Fund themselves 35-12 down shortly after half-time. Trimble scored his first try and prop Jake Dodd crossed before half time and Stokes completed his hat-trick two minutes into the second half.
Johnson scored twice either side of Trimble’s second try and Petty kicked a penalty which reduced the gap to 15 points, but only briefly.
Trimble completed his hat-trick, North Midlands responded with a close range effort from Stourbridge prop Mark George but Warwickshire went straight back and scored at the other end with Trimble scything through for his fourth.
Johnson then took over, completing his hat-trick from a charge down then following up an attack from centre partner George Morgan (Kidderminster Carolians) for his fourth. Both of them improved by Petty.
North Midlands were still 10 points down as the match entered injury-time but Luctonians number eight Aiden Cheshire smuggled his way over for an unconverted try and when Warwickshire gave away a penalty, North Midlands launched one final attack from which Evans dotted down.
North Midlands complete their programme with a home match against Somerset at Dudley Kingswinford on May 20.