Stratford 34 Wolverhampton 13
Midlands One West
WOLVERHAMPTON’S first visit to Pearcecroft in recent years ended in defeat as Stratford secured a third successive victory on Saturday.
The Black Country side made a decent start to the campaign following their promotion but have slipped to tenth in the table, whilst Stratford’s victory took them level on points with fourth placed Dudley Kingswinford.
Overnight rain had made the pitch quite wet but, although dark clouds threatened, the game kicked off in the dry.
Just two minutes in, good counter-rucking by Stratford won a penalty. Nathan Geekie, playing at fly half, pushed the ball into the Wolverhampton 22 for a lineout and the forwards then mauled the ball towards the try-line before being halted illegally.
Geekie then stepped up and, judging the wind to perfection, took the three points on offer.
Within three minutes Wolverhampton hit back when a quickly taken penalty near halfway caught the Stratford defence off guard and nearly resulted in a try.
The attack was stopped close to the line when Wolverhampton won a penalty and the score was level at 3-3.
Stratford then struggled to get hands on the ball and the defence worked very hard as Wolverhampton had the majority of possession. There was some relief 15 minutes in when Stratford won a penalty on the Wolverhampton 10m line and Geekie, with a low and frankly ugly kick, secured another three points.
Soon afterwards a Stratford attack broke down close to the try-line as Wolverhampton won a penalty and the chance to clear. The kick barely made it to the 22 and at the lineout Stratford managed to steal the ball.
Captain Mark Hibberd reacted quickly to spin the ball to the backs and winger Callum Cook spearheaded the attack down the left wing, just inches from touch.
With the last defender committed, Callum slipped the ball to his brother Jo, playing at full back, who ran in between the posts.
The howls of protest from the travelling supporters that Callum Cook was in touch fell silent when it was realised the person running touch was from Wolverhampton. Geekie slotted over the easy conversion and Stratford led 13-3.
After a classic Stratford slow start, the confidence level was high and the lead was extended just two minutes later.
Flanker Sam Joyce made a great break through the Wolverhampton defence who stood and watched as Geekie finished off at the trot between the posts. He duly converted his own try and the half finished with Stratford in a strong position at 20-3 up.
Wolverhampton started the second half in a determined mood and were soon on the attack and managed to bundle the ball across the line for an unconverted try.
Stratford hit back within five minutes with wave after wave of attack deep in the opposition 22. Wolverhampton defended gallantly but Stratford showed great patience and retained the ball well until Joyce forced his way over the line.
Geekie added the extras and Stratford were in the driving seat at 27-8 and looking for the bonus point fourth try.
Wolverhampton battled hard even though clearly lacking the stamina of Stratford and the number of stoppages started to increase.
With the home side able to call on a strong bench, it was only a matter of time before Stratford secured maximum points. A good counter-attack into the Wolverhampton half broke down with a knock-on and Stratford managed to wheel the scrum at the first attempt and then, at the reset, managed to win against the head.
Wolverhampton were suddenly on the back foot and Geekie managed to find his way through for his second try which he then made into a seven-pointer.
Close to full time, Wolverhampton managed a consolation try, but really it was academic.
Man of the match and Dick Workman Cup recipient was inside centre Jack Young.
Stratford face a tough test on Saturday (1.30pm) when they visit second placed Bournville, who are just three points off top spot and again fighting hard for promotion.