Stratford 43 Pinley 15
Midlands Two West (South)
STRATFORD bounced back from the disappointment of their narrow cup exit at Leighton Buzzard with a convincing win at Pearcecroft in the league against Pinley on Saturday.
The Black & Whites were looking to add to their emphatic last league victory, having put Earlsdon to the sword a fortnight earlier and they did just that with a bonus point win which leaves them fourth and three points off the lead ahead of Saturday’s trip to Evesham.
The game began in warm but gusty conditions with Stratford playing into the sun. Pinley took control of the ball in the opening minutes, attacking hard at a resolute Stratford defence, but making little progress despite multiple forward phases.
Stratford conceded a number of penalties for offside in the opening exchanges and after 15 minutes a penalty allowed Pinley into the Stratford 22. From the set piece Pinley put together another powerful set of forward phases, resulting in a mismatch on the left flank which allowed their prop to crash over the line from close range, although the conversion went wide.
Stratford continued to absorb more phases from the massive Pinley forwards in midfield and it took a further quarter of an hour for the hosts to eventually get a run of clean ball.
This proved to be extremely dangerous and Stratford capitalised on being the quicker side, recycling the ball at a rapid pace for a couple of phases before unleashing outside centre Sam Kirby who made a fantastic break and scampered home unopposed.
From the restart, Stratford quickly recycled possession to once again unleash Kirby who sprinted in to score his second in as many minutes. Fly-half Nathan Geekie converted from in front of the posts and Stratford looked to have found their rhythm.
Pinley, the league’s second from bottom side, clearly had not read the script though and were there for a battle, coming back hard at Stratford in the final moments of the first half and again stringing together multiple close phases.
They eventually exploited a gap, allowing their No 8 to score after some well-constructed heavy forward play. This score saw the sides enter half-time closely matched at 12-10 to Stratford.
Following the break Stratford made hay with the sun at their backs. They resumed the game with great ferocity, proving that teams at some time are masters of their fates.
First to cross the whitewash in this period of ‘Shock and Awe’ was lock Angus Wightman who was posted through a neat gap at pace and touched down under the posts.
Just moments later a fantastic piece of inter-play, rapid running and skilful offloads saw Stratford strike again, this time through right wing Dan Whitby, once more under the posts.
With the scent of blood filling their nostrils, the Pearcecroft men once again launched an attack from the restart at a frenzied pace with backs and forwards linking, each running with venom and the blistering intensity of the attack proved too much for the opposition to contain as Jack Young crossed for the third try of the half.
Geekie missed this conversion from wide, having slotted the two previous attempts from centre field, meaning Stratford had scored 19 unanswered points inside the first nine minutes of the second period.
The match settled down and saw Pinley again tried to control proceedings through the use of their big forward pack, although generally making little progress against a solid Stratford defence.
Just before the hour mark the visitors managed to recycle possession inside the Stratford 22 and after some sustained pressure came away with the reward of a try resulting from a powerful drive by their replacement prop.
Moments after scoring, the Coventry side were reduced to 14 when their No 8 was sin-binned for repeated infringement under pressure inside the 22. Stratford immediately capitalised from the ensuing lineout, executing a perfect move fresh from the training ground which enabled hooker Ben Cole to go over in the corner.
As the clock ran towards full-time, Stratford continued to hold steady in defence while launching dangerous attacks and just before the final whistle were able to release Whitby once more whose weaving run beat a number of tired defenders.
He then showed a clean pair of heels to race away and score under the posts. Geekie converted and the game came to a close with Stratford running out comfortable winners on the back of a scintillating second half performance.
The 2nd XV host Kenilworth 2nds in the Merit League on Saturday (3pm). Senior player numbers continue to improve and the club welcomes any new or returning players to training on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7pm.