Burton 36 Stratford 30
Midlands One West
STRATFORD lost ground on the leading sides as they were edged out at third placed Burton on a cold but dry Saturday.
With a number of injuries to contend with, there was a first team call-up for several players, with some playing out of their usual positions.
Burton soon opened the scoring from a penalty just inside the Stratford ten-metre line and ten minutes later they increased their lead after a mix-up at the Stratford lineout saw nobody going up, enabling Burton to snaffle the free ball and enjoy a relatively easy run-in to the left corner to make it 8-0.
Christmas had obviously come early when Stratford gave away easy ball in the centre of the pitch which Burton ran into the left corner again. This time the conversion was good and Stratford were 15-0 down after just 15 minutes.
Stratford had a good chance soon afterwards when a loose ball was hacked through deep into the Burton twenty-two.
The defending winger cynically prevented Stratford getting the ball and earned a yellow card and Burton managed to get up in front of Stratford at the subsequent lineout and clear the danger.
Despite being a man down, Burton kept the pressure on Stratford, who conceded two kickable penalties but both drifted wide of the posts.
With just five minutes of the first half remaining, Stratford managed to get on the scoreboard.
After a penalty, Stratford put the ball deep into the right-hand corner and from the lineout the Stratford forwards pushed up with a couple of phases before the ball went out to the backs.
Dan Whitby, playing at centre, looked to offload but was overrun by winger Nath Geekie so just barged his way through the Burton defence instead. Geekie kicked the conversion for 15-7, which was the score at half time.
Early in the second half, after sustained Burton pressure close to the Stratford line, the referee sent two Stratford forwards to the sin-bin in quick succession.
Burton quickly capitalised on the numerical advantage and scored three tries in the next ten minutes.
What had been a finely poised game quickly became a rout at 36-7.
Back up to full strength, Stratford were spurred on by the difficult situation and struck back from the restart.
Dan Kirby recovered the ball and Whitby soon scored his second try.
Five minutes later, winger Callum Cook kicked through on the right and Stratford regathered the ball which went back to Cook for him to score the try.
Just three minutes later more good play by the backs saw them run some great lines and offload well, culminating in yet another try, and the score was now a much healthier 36-22.
Whitby then scored his hat-trick try and Burton’s frustration showed when their defender dropped his knees on to Whitby after the score.
The last time this happened Whitby suffered a dislocated shoulder but fortunately he was uninjured. The Burton player received a yellow card for his troubles.
Stratford battled hard to close the gap further in the last 15 minutes and Burton defended desperately.
Just before the final whistle Stratford won a penalty which Geekie slotted through the uprights for a final score of 36-30 which meant the visitors secured two bonus points.
Considering this was a match away from home to the third placed club and with a scoreline that read 36-7 at one point, this was a great achievement.
It really showed true team spirit and, had a few more decisions gone Stratford’s way, it could easily have been a win.
Stratford have slipped one place to fifth, with Wolverhampton moving ahead by one point after their win against Whitchurch.
On Saturday (2.15pm) Stratford are at home to Crewe & Nantwich who have yet to record a win away from home.