September 6th, 2016

Bonus point success maintains status quo at the top

Stratford 34 Leek 3

Midlands One West

STRATFORD picked up the bonus point victory they expected against lowly Leek on Saturday, although they were unable to move clear of fellow joint leaders Bridgnorth and Bournville, who also secured five-point wins and have two and one games in hand respectively.

It was Sponsors’ Day at Pearcecroft and, whilst Stratford were confident of serving up victory for the home faithful after enjoying a 36-13 win at Leek earlier in the season, they knew the Staffordshire side would contest the full 80 minutes, so Stratford knew they had to earn the points.

The weather was fine with only a light breeze but conditions underfoot were quite soggy from recent rain.

For the first 15 minutes neither side really dominated although scrum half Drew Pritchard’s probing box kicks kept driving Leek back.

The visitors worked hard at the breakdown and forced some turnovers. When Stratford had the ball they tended to play very flat and, with the referee being lenient regarding the offside line, Leek were able to defend well.

Stratford were first to break the deadlock with a probing kick deep into the Leek twenty-two. The subsequent clearing kick gave Stratford a lineout in good field position and the ball was moved quickly infield.

When centre Jack Young broke across the gain line Leek’s defence was scrambling, Young shipped the ball out wide and full back Nathan Geekie pushed up to be the extra man for a try in the left corner. He then converted his own score and Stratford led 7-0.

Just five minutes later Stratford were on the scoreboard again. A good kick-chase by flanker Sam Joyce saw the Leek defender flattened in a crunching tackle that could be heard from the far side of the pitch.

In the resulting scramble Leek conceded a penalty. After a brief stoppage Joyce was able to carry on but the unfortunate Leek player had to be substituted.

Fly half James Southall pushed the kick deep into Leek territory and once again Stratford had great lineout position. This time the forwards opted to do the work themselves and mauled Leek towards the try line.

With a well worked shift of the pressure-point, Leek were unable to keep Stratford out and Liam Jones, playing at No 8, scored the five points wide on the left. Geekie missed the conversion for the first time in three matches so the score was 12-0.

Within a few minutes Leek managed to get on the scoreboard from a penalty in a very kickable position but ten minutes later Geekie did the same for Stratford and the half finished 15-3.

The home supporters did not have long to wait for the next score which came from open play. A clearing kick from Leek failed to find touch on the left and in just two or three passes the ball flew across the width of the pitch and outside centre Andy Conway scored in the corner.

Another good conversion from Geekie and Stratford were showing their dominance at 22-3.

Just five minutes later and a confident Stratford scored again. This try was possibly contender for try of the season as it involved the whole team in some textbook rugby.

Once again it began with a Stratford lineout deep in Leek territory on the right. Tom Mylott, playing off the bench, sailed high into the air to take the ball arrowed in from hooker and skipper Mark Hibberd.

The forwards again mauled the ball but the Leek pack defended well and Stratford could not make much progress, so the ball moved out to the backs. Silky passing coupled with impeccable timing had the Leek defence bamboozled as Stratford moved forward.

Looping runs straight off the training pitch created the inevitable overlap and winger Toby Jones did the honours in the left-hand corner. Geekie’s conversion shaved the posts on the wrong side but, with the scoreline at 27-3 and the bonus point in the bag, it was academic.

Leek never gave up though and continued to work hard for another score. Unfortunately for them it was Stratford who had the last word.

Toby Jones put a clever kick into the left corner and Young was first to get to the Leek full back and forced a penalty. Stratford opted for a lineout again and the pack mauled their way towards the line.

Prop James Hancock, frustrated at being on the bench for most of the game, made his presence known by scoring the try. Geekie added the extras and the final score was 34-3 and a well deserved five points for Stratford.

There was respectful applause for Leek who worked hard throughout and made it a thoroughly entertaining contest.

The Dick Workman Cup for man of the match was awarded to tight head Tom Hall by club sponsors Guy Salmon Land Rover.

On Saturday Stratford travel to local rivals Silhillians, who have only two wins this season. Kick-off is at 2.15pm.

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