STRATFORD Ladies claimed a fourth placed finish in the opening North East Midlands Ladies Touch tournament of the season.
As the scheduled first tournament of the year in March was cancelled due to bad weather, the start of the 2017 season felt a long time coming for Stratford, whose target this season is to recruit new and develop less experienced players.
Therefore, it was fabulous that a 13-strong squad comprising of experienced and development players competed at Rugby St Andrews on Sunday.
Stratford’s first match was against Berkswell & Balsall and their account was opened by veteran Caz Farris with a diving try in the first half.
Rachel McGovern and debutant Sophie Henry added to the scoreline to secure a solid 3-0 victory.
Coach Richard Pepperell ensured a mixture of experience and inexperience was on the pitch at all times and this result was a great confidence boost for the squad.
Next up was Camp Hill, who proved to be a tougher opposition and opened the scoring before a fine run and try from Henry secured a 1-1 draw for Stratford.
In the final pool game, hosts Rugby St Andrews could not find a way through the Stratford defence and also found it hard to stop Maddie Rendell, who crossed the whitewash three times to give Stratford a 3-0 victory.
These results left Stratford second in the pool and needing to beat Redditch for the right to a place in the 1st/2nd place play-off.
Redditch had narrowly beaten Stratford at the last North East Midlands Ladies Touch tournament at Newbold but had then gone on to narrowly lose to Stratford in the race for the league title last season as both matches required a result and therefore featured a ‘drop off’.
History repeated itself as, after a closely fought 0-0 draw, Redditch and Stratford found themselves in a drop-off situation again.
Each team drops a player in extra time until only three of the original six are left on the pitch. Redditch scored first when the teams were down to three and, despite some great running lines and ball movement, Stratford could not reply within their next six touches so found themselves in the 3rd/4th place play-off against Wellesbourne.
Wellesbourne’s Catriona Rollason scored twice before Stratford replied with a lovely interception and pass from captain Jane McGovern which put Rendell in for her fourth try of the tournament.
However, Stratford could not score again and were beaten 2-1.
Congratulations go to Stratford debutants Sharon Quantrill, Val Squires, Sam Gilliver, Rachel Browne and Sophie Henry for their performances in their first tournament.
Player of the tournament for Stratford was another debutant Bec Charles, who played like an experienced player with some great handling, solid defence and a constant positive voice.
The next tournament is at Camp Hill on May 7. Stratford Ladies train on Tuesdays at 6.30pm at Stratford RFC.