UPTON Rugby Club's first XV played their first home game after a five week period covering the Christmas holidays and two away matches.


An overcast but dry day welcomed Handsworth to their first ever visit to Upton as they have previously played in the Staffordshire leagues and also higher leagues.

Following relegation last year they wanted a higher grade of rugby than was available to them in Birmingham and elected to join teams in Worcestershire and Herefordshire, they are currently in seventh place.

The game started at a frantic rate but Upton took the lead after two minutes when Rob Heeley kicked a penalty.

Handsworth replied immediately and scored two good tries through scrum-half Lacks and centre Brown to make it 3-10.

Handsworth's tries came about through poor tackling on Upton's part and it was obvious that Upton were going to badly miss the authority and ball-winning capabilities of their two missing flankers Matt Bookham and skipper Ollie Jones.

Upton muddled on but weather conditions were steadily deteriorating making it difficult to get the ball out to the threes and possible areas of attacking options. Several of Upton's try attempts were repelled by Handsworth who in turn set up a counter attack just before half time with a strong run down the left wing, but the ball was lost in the tackle just before the line.

Handsworth won the ball at the scrum and Lacks dummied his way to the line and Blake converted to leave the half-time score at 3-17.

The arrival of Ollie Jones at the change-over gave Upton the boost they needed and within 10 minutes of the restart so much pressure was exerted on Handsworth that they had to transgress and Heeley added two penalties to bring the score to 9-17.

Upton continued to prosper with a number of drives from their forwards before releasing the backs. Handsworth's forwards couldn't handle the drives and after 60 minutes Julian Carroll claimed a try after a typical catch and drive from the lineout.

With 10 minutes left another Handsworth illegality enabled Heeley to claim another penalty and so level the scores at 17-17.

After all their exertions, Upton started to tire and Handsworth started to pile on the pressure and it was Upton's turn to concede penalties. They were driven back towards their line and with a minute to go, Blake kicked another penalty for 17-20.

Upton restarted with a long kick, recollected the ball and Heeley went for a drop goal which narrowly missed so ending a spirited second half display by Upton.

The Upton second XV visited Gloucester Spartans and although losing 32-19 in a close game, showed immense character and fight to achieve parity throughout the game until the final ten minutes.

Tomorrow (Saturday) the first XV are away to Birmingham Exiles and the second XV are home to Worcester Wanderers.