September 6th, 2016

Stratford make progress in promotion race

Silhillians 10 Stratford 46

Midlands One West

STRATFORD moved into second place thanks to a convincing bonus point win at lowly Silhillians on Saturday.

They remain behind leaders Bridgnorth on points difference having played two games more, but do now hold a four-point cushion over third placed Bournville – having played a match more – following the Birmingham side’s defeat at Hereford.

With fellow high-flyers Worcester Wanderers also suffering defeat at Stoke, it was a profitable day for Stratford, who host Stoke in their next league game on February 13.

Stratford arrived at Silhillians to find bright sunshine and a biting, swirling wind and a soggy pitch waiting for them.

The home side have only managed two wins so far this season so Stratford were confident of victory and with only five minutes on the clock the visitors opened the scoring from a lineout just inside the Sils half.

Centre Jack Young broke through the Sils defence before offloading to fellow centre Andy Conway to score between the posts and the conversion for Nathan Geekie was a formality.

Within two minutes the home side hit back when a clearing kick by Stratford went out on the full and gave Sils the lineout inside the Stratford twenty-two.

Sils took advantage of the opportunity and scored a try of their own which went unconverted and Sils then had an opportunity to take the lead from a penalty, but the kick was pushed wide in the wind.

Stratford continued to apply pressure and this resulted in the next score after flanker Ash Bonner charged down a Sils clearing kick to give the visitors a lineout close to the try line.

Second row Tom Mylott plucked the ball out of the sky and the forwards shoved their way over the line, with prop Simon Baldwyn picking up the credit for the pack. Geekie judged the wind to perfection and Stratford were now leading 14-5.

Five minutes later the lead was extended again. Sils defended well against wave after wave of Stratford attacks but inevitably conceded a penalty in the process.

Stratford opted for the scrum and Young got very close to the line but he was stopped just short. Scrum half Drew Pritchard spotted a gap in front of the ruck and sniped a try, unconverted, to open a healthy 19-5 lead.

Once again Stratford then gave Sils good field position and a scrum by trying to play out of defence. The Sils pack worked well and nearly made it to the line before handing the job over to the backs.

The Stratford defence was too narrow and Sils moved the ball out wide where there was an overlap and Sils scored their second try which was again unconverted, leaving the hosts 19-10 down.

Before the end of the half Stratford scored again. Showing patience they worked through the phases, retained the ball well and gradually sucked in the defence.

Then the ball was slipped out to winger Callum Cook to score the bonus point try and the half ended 24-10.

Stratford then made tactical substitutions, bringing on James Hancock at tight head for Tom Hall and seeing the return of Jo Cook, after a number of weeks out injured, in place of Toby Jones.

A forced substitution early in the second half saw flanker Jimmy Richardson, also returning after a sustained period of injury, replace Sam Joyce.

Less than ten minutes into the second half Stratford scored again from a lineout. With a move straight out of the training manual, the ball was taken at the front and driven down the five-metre channel for a score in the left corner by No 8 Liam Jones.

Baldwyn was substituted with Tom Hall back on this time at loose head and Ash Bonner got a well earned rest when Joyce returned to the fray.

Full back Jo Cook then celebrated his return to the senior side by scoring a try on the right. Cutting a lovely line he took the ball at speed to run through a gap in the Sils line. Converted by Geekie, the score moved to 36-10.

Stratford started to run riot and, when a sweet backs move just failed to make it across the line, Drew Pritchard was on hand to snipe another try.

Sils refused to give up and defended valiantly to the end. Despite managing to overturn a Stratford scrum, Sils had their own scrum turned over and poacher Pritchard picked up the ball at the back and scooted over the line for his hat-trick score.

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