Stratford 23 Worcester Wanderers 11
Midlands One West
STRATFORD made progress in the promotion race as they defeated fourth placed Worcester Wanderers on Saturday and in the process earned revenge for their 27-17 defeat away from home in November.
However, top two Bridgnorth and Bournville won their weekend matches, leaving Stratford second in the table, five points behind Bridgnorth and level on points with the third placed Birmingham side, although they have played two and one more games respectively.
Stratford kicked-off into a blustery wind and Worcester immediately went on the attack and soon had a scrum in the Stratford twenty-two. The Worcester pack were able to push Stratford back and won a penalty.
Worcester showed their intent and elected to go for the corner and a lineout rather than take the easy three points. It very nearly paid off when their driving maul got very close to the line and even managed to get the ball down across the line. Thankfully for Stratford the referee ruled a double-movement and Stratford escaped.
Within a few minutes Worcester had another opportunity when once again Stratford conceded a penalty at the scrum. This time Worcester decided to take the three points but the kick was wide.
Stratford were able to apply pressure when a Worcester lineout, which struggled throughout, went astray and a kick and chase had Worcester defending deep in their own twenty-two.
However, Worcester broke out and managed to make it all the way to the Stratford twenty-two before the desperate chasing defence managed to halt the attack but conceded a penalty in the process. Worcester again elected to kick the three and again missed.
Stratford had their first opportunity to score a few minutes later with a penalty in a similar position but winger Nathan Geekie got under the ball and it fell short. Two minutes later Geekie had a virtually identical kick and this time he made no mistake and drilled the ball between the uprights to put the hosts 3-0 up with 20 minutes gone.
Stratford then lost Jack Young, playing at fly-half, to the sin-bin for ten minutes. Despite being a man down, Stratford piled the pressure on Worcester and forced a penalty which they put deep into the left corner.
As they have done so often this season, the pack executed a textbook catch and drive for a score in the corner courtesy of No 8 Liam Jones. The difficult conversion just fell short but Stratford were now 8-0 up.
Worcester finally found their way on to the scoreboard ten minutes later with a penalty, but within three minutes the score was nullified by Geekie again with a penalty.
Then, right on the stroke of half time, Worcester kicked a second penalty to make it 11-6. This boded well for the hosts considering Worcester’s dominance in the scrum and the fact Stratford had been playing into the wind.
Early in the second half the Stratford pack managed to turn the tables and won a penalty in the scrum just on halfway. With the following wind, Stratford were able to kick deep into the Worcester twenty-two.
At the lineout second row Tom Mylott soared high above the opposition to collect the ball. The forwards then did what they do best and drove towards the Worcester line.
A quick change in the point of pressure left Worcester helpless as Stratford crashed over the line, with loose head prop Simon Baldwyn scoring the try. A well judged conversion from Geekie followed and Stratford had a healthy 18-6 lead.
The rest of the second half became increasingly fractious and, with the referee reaching for his pocket several times, there were rarely 30 players on the pitch at once.
The game was played at a level of intensity that suited the home side and once again they had a lineout close to the line following a penalty. This time the forwards could not quite make it all the way to the line so the ball went out to the backs.
Nick Taylor, having a good game at scrum half, saw a gap and darted over for Stratford’s third try and a virtually unassailable 23-6 lead.
Worcester managed a consolation try from a lineout drive but it was too little, too late and Stratford had a well deserved win.
Despite a slightly shaky start Stratford really were the better team on the day. Worcester were unable to capitalise on their dominance at the scrum because of Stratford’s fierce defence, which had their attacks mostly going sideways.
It was a real team effort both in defence and attack with every player at 100 per cent throughout, but only one person can be man of the match and the Dick Workman Cup was awarded to flanker Sam Joyce.
On Saturday Stratford travel to bottom club Walsall, who have won only two matches. The kick-off is the last 2.15pm one of the season.