MIDLANDS FOUR EAST (SOUTH): Deepings 6 Birstall 21
Deepings go into their derby showdown with Bourne on Saturday having more than held their own against leaders Birstall at Linchfield Road.
The 21-6 defeat was a family affair for prop Clint Bell (47) and his two sons, flanker Charlie (21) and winger Clay (18).
The Green Machine held the Green Dogs at bay for long periods as they came under constant pressure from the Midlands Four East (South) leaders.
But Deepings club captain Clint said: “I thought it was a very positive game and it was a good result to keep the score so close for so long.
“Considering how well they’ve been doing, it was a good team performance to make sure Birstall didn’t get a bonus point.
“We wanted to keep their scores to a minimum by tackling hard and defending well.
Clint joined Deepings in 1988 after moving to Crowland and his two sons have come through the club’s junior section to help the Green Machine’s charge towards a top-four finish in the league this season.
“We’ve all grown up playing in the area and I chose to come to Deepings because it’s a good, family club,” he added.
“My passion for rugby has rubbed off on Charlie and Clay as I’ve been involved in the club for so long and they both played for Deepings as kids.
“They’ve grown up on coming here and it’s second nature to them, so they’d have a hard time if they went and joined another club.
“But as long as Charlie and Clay are both enjoying the game of rugby, that’s all that matters.”
Meanwhile, Deepings 1st XV skipper Guy Cunningham was left disappointed to see his side miss out on a bonus point for not keeping Birstall within a seven-point losing margin.
“We wanted to win because we had a really good January when we played some decent rugby and tried to attack,” said Cunningham.
“As a team, we’ve settled down but there were quite a few illnesses ahead of the Birstall game which meant that we had to play Chris Owen at centre where he’d only played once before.
“Kelvin Squires also came in and some good tackles having not played any rugby at the start of the season.
“We enjoy playing with each other and even though we had a few less players today, our pack played really well.”
“A year or two ago, we could have lost quite easily but we’re getting to the point where we’re competing with teams like Birstall.”
As far as on-the-field matters were concerned, Deepings withstood long spells of pressure from the Green Dogs as 53-year-old hooker Stuart McCabe, flanker Phil Trotman and winger Kelvin Squires excelled in what was a severe test of rugby.
Another Green Machine man to catch the eye was front row man Kirk Green who exemplified the Green Machine’s fearlessness when he took an early knock after a Birstall rolling maul on four minutes.
But six minutes later, the Green Dogs were ahead when dangerous winger Rhys Chivers pierced the Deepings’ defence and raced in for a try which was converted by Luke Welch.
At this stage, skipper Guy Cunningham was determined to show that his side were far from intimidated and such defiance was rewarded on 17 minutes when Chris Owen picked the first of his two penalties to make it 7-3.
Squires then produced a try-saving tackle after a Cunningham pass failed to find Owen and before the break, Deepings made the most of a Birstall offside lapse by making it 7-6 with another Owen penalty.
But Birstall produced the decisive moment of the match when Chivers scored his second try right on half-time, again converted by Welch.
The match could have been out of Deepings’ reach 10 minutes into the second half when Welch missed a penalty chance, but he made amends on 57 minutes when the ball was spread wide and the Birstall kicker ran in a try he also converted.
After the game, Cunningham said: “The second Birstall try (on half-time) as a bit gut-wrenching, after losing a crucial lineout, but they executed it very well.
“But we’re quite proud that they didn’t get a bonus point (for scoring five or more tries).
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm around the club and the younger lads are playing well.
“I can’t praise them highly enough because it’s hard work, but I think we’re building nicely for next season as there’s a good team spirit at Deepings and we’re getting a lot of momentum.
Deepings: Green, McCabe, Silverwood, Bradley, Johnson, Clay Bell, Trotman, Coupland, Charity, Cunningham, Charlie Bell, Owen, Day, Squires, Morton. Subs: Shaw, Harrison, O’Connor, Clint Bell.