Stratford 39 Dudley Kingswinford 28
Midlands One West
STRATFORD made it two league wins from two this season as they saw off newly-relegated Dudley Kingswinford at Pearcecroft on Saturday.
Both sides had won their opening fixtures and there was a buzz of expectation from the supporters which the shower of rain at kick-off did nothing to diminish.
Stratford meant business and applied pressure right from the start and just five minutes in from a Stratford lineout on the twenty-two the pack mauled the ball close to the Dudley line.
Dan Kirby, at number 8, broke off the back to open the scoring. The try was converted from the left by winger Nath Geekie to give Stratford an early seven-point lead.
Referee Hayden Sarjeant had an excellent game but was very strict around the breakdown and Stratford took a while to adjust. Dudley were able to open their account with a three-pointer from in front of the posts.
Both sides were playing attacking rugby but Stratford’s defence was the better and a frustrated Dudley spent a lot of time going sideways. It was only the high penalty count which allowed them any territory in the face of some very fierce tackling.
The Stratford pack were more than a match in the scrums although the lineouts were not 100 per cent.
The half finished 13-6 in the hosts’ favour despite lots of very entertaining, attacking rugby, with the extra points courtesy of Geekie’s boot.
In the second half Stratford upped the tempo and turned the potential of the first half into points. From a Dudley lineout in their own twenty-two, the Stratford pack turned the ball over and moved it infield.
Substitute winger Charlie Powell had been on the pitch for all of ten seconds when he cut a beautiful line at considerable pace, collected the pop pass and was through the posts before the Dudley defence even realised what was happening. The conversion was a formality for Geekie and the scoreline was 20-6.
Stratford collected the ball cleanly at the restart and cleared the ball downfield with a box kick. Dudley failed to field it properly and Matt Allen, who was chasing hard, accepted the ball thankfully and streaked towards the posts.
Charlie Powell was in close support but Allen backed himself and, despite the close attention of the Dudley winger, scored between the posts. It was another easy one for Geekie and the scoreline was a healthy 27-6.
This score spurred Dudley on and, after a sustained period of attack, their efforts were rewarded when they created an overlap on the left for a try in the corner. The conversion hit the left upright and went wide and the score was 27-11.
Stratford hit back within five minutes though. Once again the ball was turned over at a Dudley lineout in their own twenty-two, Stratford quickly moved it across the park and a lovely cut-out pass found Powell for his second and Stratford’s fourth try.
Dudley refused to give up and with a great break though the middle headed towards the right-hand corner, although the arm tug on the chasing Stratford defender was missed by the referee and Dudley scored their second try.
The conversion attempt bounced off the right-hand post, underlining that it was just not Dudley’s day. At 32-16, Stratford were comfortably clear but some members of the home crowd were still somewhat nervous.
Those nerves were very quickly quashed though. From the restart Dudley fielded the ball but the clearing box kick was charged down by prop James Hancock who chased the ball and, with deft footwork, edged it even closer to the line before diving down for Stratford’s fifth try just in from the left touchline.
Once again the sustained pressure in defence by Stratford had been rewarded and a sweet conversion by Geekie took the score to 39-16.
With a little over ten minutes to go Stratford conceded a penalty at a ruck on their twenty-two which the Dudley scrum half took quickly. With an obvious rush of blood, Kirby immediately pulled him down and earned himself ten minutes in the sin-bin and from the resulting lineout Stratford defended gallantly but the try was almost inevitable with the man advantage to make it 39-21.
Dudley piled on the pressure and worked the ball left and right and eventually an overlap appeared for their fourth, bonus point try. The conversion was good and the scoreline of 39-28 was how the match finished.
The Dick Workman Cup for man of the match went to Kirby for an impressive 70 minutes of full-on rugby, although each and every man played with fierce determination.
The result put Stratford top of the table with maximum points and next up is Saturday’s visit to Hereford, which is typically a tough fixture, although they have lost both their opening games so hopes are high for a hat-trick of Stratford wins.