Silhillians 15 Stratford 34
Midlands One West
STRATFORD earned a vital victory at Silhillians on Saturday to move four points clear of both their hosts and Barkers Butts at the foot of the table.
The forecast was gloomy but the rain stayed away for most of the match and the conditions were ideal for rugby.
Silhillians kicked-off and a fumbled catch and hurried clearance gave them good field position in the Stratford twenty-two. From the lineout a quick pass out and in saw them break through the line and, after a missed tackle, they touched down under the posts. The conversion was a formality and after just two minutes Stratford were trailing 7-0.
Their lead only lasted five minutes as, from a Stratford lineout, fly-half Simon Brain – standing in as skipper for the injured Jack Young – chipped over the top.
Winger Callum Cook, who caused Silhillians trouble throughout the game with his kick chases, followed up and forced the Sills defence to fumble the ball.
Kicking through, the next defender also failed to get his hands on the ball, which Cook collected and an unselfish pass to centre Sam Joyce saw Stratford score under the posts and with Brain converting the scores were levelled.
Stratford were reduced to 14 players when full back Elliot Smith mistimed his tackle and took out a home player in the air after a kick-chase. Stratford defended well and Sils were only able to score three points from a penalty during the next ten minutes.
Back up to full strength, Stratford pressurised Sils and were rewarded 30 minutes into the half. Sils conceded a penalty and, with the Stratford lineout working well, Brain had no hesitation putting the ball into the corner.
After a couple of phases, centre Sam Kirby saw a gap behind the defence and called for the grubber. A perfectly weighted kick from Brain was delivered and Kirby pounced to score Stratford’s second try. Once again converted by Brain, Stratford took a 14-10 lead which is how the first half finished.
Not long after the restart there was a period of loose play with turnovers by both sides. Eventually Dan Kirby picked up the ball near the left-hand wing and set off for the line. The Sils scrum-half was perfectly positioned a couple of metres inside of touch but badly underestimated Kirby’s speed and power and was left flailing as the Stratford winger blitzed past him for a brilliant solo try.
Shortly afterwards Silhillians were reduced to 14 when their tight-head was binned for an infringement at the ruck. Stratford failed to capitalise on their advantage and both sides were down to 14 when second row James Wootton joined him for the same reason.
Stratford were now growing in confidence and started playing some of their best rugby of the season. After a sublime series of inter-changes from both backs and forwards and a great running line by Whitby, prop James Hancock passed to Cook who took the ball close to the line before a final offload to scrum-half Neil Davies and a try in the corner to secure a bonus point and a healthy scoreline 24-10 lead.
Stratford continued to press and, after Whitby and Wootton combined to turn over the ball, it went quickly wide to Cook for a well deserved try of his own in the corner.
Sils managed to reduce the deficit after winning a free kick from the scrum, despite the dominance of the Stratford pack throughout the match, which they took quickly and flung out wide to the right wing. Cook made the tackle but the Sils winger managed to just reach out far enough to score.
It was too little, too late though and just five minutes before the end Stratford drove home the final nail. Tom Mylott, having moved from back row to second row, broke through the Sils line and galloped for the line.
Rapidly running out of oxygen, he eventually found support in the shape of Toby Jones, playing in the centre, who then passed to Davies for his second try of the match.
The final scoreline was 34-15 and a full five points for Stratford. Overall Stratford were deserved winners with a great team effort in both defence and attack.
Injuries forced a number of positional shuffles during the match but everyone stepped up regardless of their role.
The next two Saturdays are both home fixtures, firstly against Stoke and then Worcester Wanderers. Stratford will be looking for as many points as possible to overcome the five lost for playing a non-registered player.
The large contingent of Stratford supporters at Silhillians made a difference so it would be good to see a big crowd at Pearcecroft this Saturday at 3pm.