Stratford 32 Stoke 7
Midlands One West
STRATFORD sit fifth with three wins from five matches after a hard fought but ultimately convincing victory over Stoke at Pearcecroft on Saturday.
The sides went into the match with 12 points apiece so it promised to be a good contest. Rain earlier in the day had left conditions underfoot very slippery, but Stoke kicked-off in bright sunshine.
With just seven minutes on the clock, Stratford had Stoke under pressure deep in their own half. The clearing kick was hurried and gave Stratford a lineout in a good position just outside the twenty-two.
The ball was taken cleanly and the home pack took a few seconds to set the maul before starting to move downfield.
Initially the Stoke pack resisted but, in a series of well-practised moves, the point of pressure was repeatedly shifted infield and, with momentum gathering, the pushover try was inevitable.
Jimmy Richardson, playing at lock, came up with the ball. The conversion attempt was pushed across the posts by winger Nathan Geekie so the score was 5-0.
Less than ten minutes later, Stratford increased their lead by three when Geekie slotted a penalty from about 30 metres in front of the posts.
It took just five minutes for Stoke to hit back. Stratford were forced to defend their line against a series of attacks until eventually they conceded a penalty.
Stoke kicked into the corner for a lineout at which Stoke briefly mauled the ball before their veteran prop darted around the short-side for a try close to the touchline.
An excellent conversion put the visitors right back into contention at 8-7.
Stratford were unfazed and within five minutes they extended their lead. The home side won turnover ball and quickly turned defence into attack.
The ball went out wide where full back Jo Cook made a break down the left-hand touchline. There was just one defender to beat and a sweetly timed offload saw winger Dan Whitby score Stratford’s second try. This time Geekie did the honours for a score of 15-7.
Stoke continued to work hard in defence and attack but Stratford always had the upper hand. With just five minutes of the first half left, Stratford put pressure on a Stoke lineout and forced a penalty deep in the twenty-two.
The Stratford scrum had been working well and once again provided good clean ball for the backs. The ball was worked across the width of the pitch with looping runs that created the extra man, Whitby, who had a relatively simple run into the corner for his second try.
It was a well executed move the whole team, including the coaches, could take credit for. It was then the heavens opened and the rest of the match was played in torrential rain.
The half time score was 20-7 and, owing to the conditions, the second half was a less exciting affair but both sides continued to battle hard in the wet.
Whitby managed to get his hat-trick with a breakaway try in the corner on the hour mark which secured the bonus point for Stratford and at 25-7 it was pretty much game over.
Geekie had, for him, a disappointing game with the boot so it was some consolation when he scored a try towards the end which he duly converted.
Maximum points were secured by Stratford, who host Worcester on Saturday (3pm).