Stratford 17 Newport (Salop) 27
Midlands One West
LEADERS Newport (Salop) came to Pearcecroft on Saturday for what was always going to be a difficult match for Stratford and the hosts emerged with plenty of credit against the Shropshire side, who have now won five matches out of five.
Earlier rain had softened the pitch but the sun was out for the afternoon’s rugby and from the start Stratford conceded a number of penalties as they defended against the well drilled and well paid visitors.
Newport kicked into the corner and from the resulting lineout pushed close to the Stratford line. The referee ruled the maul had been pulled down deliberately and went under the posts to award Newport an early penalty try.
The conversion was a formality and Newport led by seven, but thankfully for Stratford there was no accompanying yellow card.
Stratford then mounted their own series of attacks and Newport conceded several penalties of their own. Each time fly-half Simon Brain put the ball into the corner and, with the Stratford lineout working well, it was the turn of the home team to threaten the line.
Recent recruit Stuart Fletcher – playing second row – broke off the back of a driving maul and crashed over the line for a score in the corner. The difficult conversion went wide but Stratford were in the game at 7-5 down.
The scoring alternated between the sides for most of the rest of the match. The Newport forwards drove over the line from a lineout for a converted try and just ten minutes later home skipper Jack Young took a pass from a quickly taken penalty and broke through the Newport defence to score under the posts, duly converted by Brain to make it 14-12 to Newport.
The visitors hit back just before half time as once again a well worked driving maul from a lineout saw Stratford pushed backwards over their line and the first half finished with them trailing 19-12.
Stratford continued to defend fiercely and attacked well and worked through the phases. Scrum-half Neil Davies was taken down illegally and Newport lost a player to the sin-bin for ten minutes.
From the resulting lineout and maul Davies got his revenge when he darted over the line to score Stratford’s third try and put them very much back in touch at 19-17 down.
Newport widened the gap a few minutes later when Stratford conceded a penalty in front of their own posts which Newport kicked for three more points and close to full time Newport broke through the Stratford defence one last time for a fourth bonus point try.
It was disappointing for Stratford not to earn a single point for what was a strong performance by a true amateur side against opposition that have only just come down into the division.
The Dirk Workman Cup for man of the match went to lock Fletcher for his overall contribution to the game and Stratford can take great heart from this performance as they prepare to visit fellow strugglers Silhillians on Saturday.
This is a crucial game for Stratford so please come and support them in what is usually a very spirited fixture. The kick-off is at 3pm.