September 29th, 2016

Superb Stratford sink table-toppers

Stratford 35 Bridgnorth 13

Midlands One West

IT WAS Ladies’ Day at Stratford Rugby Club on Saturday and the hosts marked the occasion in style by inflicting just a third defeat of the campaign on the champions in waiting in front of a large crowd.

The result keeps third placed Stratford’s hopes of a top two finish alive, but they will need to beat hosts Burton on Saturday and hope second placed Bournville fail to beat visitors Whitchurch in order for Stratford to take the matter to the final round of fixtures.

Stratford started brightly but after just ten minutes Bridgnorth opened their account when the visitors managed to rip the ball free in a tackle and attack down the right wing, creating a two-on-one which meant the unconverted try in the corner was a foregone conclusion.

Straight from the restart, Stratford forced their way back into the match by gaining possession and mounting their own attack through the centre pairing of Andy Conway and Sam Kirby.

Conway broke through the Bridgnorth line and Kirby was in support to take the offload. With a couple of defenders still to beat, Kirby used his strength and power to crash over the line about ten metres wide of the posts.

Nathan Geekie, playing on the wing, stepped up for the conversion and added the extra two points to put Stratford 7-5 up.

Bridgnorth pressed Stratford but were unable to find a way through the resolute defence despite getting close to the line on separate occasions.

After a turnover deep in the Stratford half, Geekie used his footballing skills to kick the ball downfield and give chase. The winger twice more hacked the ball down the wing and, after winning the footrace with the Bridgnorth defence, was able to score a magnificent solo try in the left corner which he converted to make the scoreline 14-5.

Following continued pressure Bridgnorth managed to win a penalty and took the opportunity to narrow the gap to 14-8.

With the home side playing with confidence, an attacking maul was illegally pulled down near the Bridgnorth try-line, leaving the referee no choice but to send the offender to the sin-bin for ten minutes.

Some quick and clever interchanges by Stratford’s backs allowed full back Nick Taylor to score in the left-hand corner – a slick move that even impressed the Bridgnorth supporters – and Geekie did the honours to ensure Stratford were flying high at 21-8.

Early in the second half Bridgnorth showed why they are top of the table as a smart one-handed offload by a Bridgnorth player prevented the ball from going into touch and allowed his support to go over for a second try, but again the conversion was missed, and the Pearcecroft side led 28-13.

For the rest of the second half the two sides battled hard and neither was able to penetrate the defence of the other but, with full time approaching, Stratford made one last attack and flanker Jimmy Richardson threw a long, looping pass across to the left wing which substitute Jo Cook collected and with a jinking run slipped past two defenders for a score between the posts.

Geekie took his personal tally to 15 with the conversion and put the icing on the cake for Stratford.

With some excellent rugby on show in both defence and attack, there were many contenders for man of the match, but the Dick Workman Cup was awarded to centre Andy Conway.

The thoughts of Stratford players and supporters are with Silhillians hooker Lee Jones and his loved ones and team-mates. Lee sustained a serious neck injury playing rugby at the weekend.

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