Depleted Stour lose at South Leicester
Match report by Richard Stanley
Stour’s plan to finish the season on a high were foiled by a determined opposition who played with more guile and determination than their campaign weary visitors. In fairness to SRFC, the team had been depleted by a number of injuries and circumstances outside their control, including the disappearance of Ciaran Moore. This resulted in bringing back veteran second row, Robbie Hurrell to play his part for the full 80 minutes. DoR Player of the Season, Ben Tibbetts stood in for our water boy, Miles Edge and even with his groin injury was slightly quicker to the breakdown when it came to rehydration (for the first half, at least.} Other injuries also meant we only had 4 effective bench replacements including a 41 year old centre who entered the fray just 10 minutes into the second half when leading points scorer, Luke White was taken off for a Head Injury Assessment.
These aren’t excuses but merely some of the reasons why 2016/17 campaign ended as it did.
For the first 10 minutes, Stour had pretty much all of the possession and territory even playing against a strong wind. However, the skill and experience of SL fly half, Rickie Aley began to tell and his clever kicking out of hand was enough to regain the momentum. A chip ahead and some slick passing saw No 11 Ryan Olowofela score the first of his three tries to the left of the sticks and an easy conversion for Aley surprised most of the 100 supporters when the hosts took a 7-point lead. However, this did not last long as the Stourbridge kick off led to a return boot out of defence but referee Dr Ryan Smith adjudged a S Leicester player to be in front of the kicker. Rod Petty’s penalty kick into touch gave Stour a lineout deep inside the 22 and resulting possession moved the ball into the centre and into the hands of James Otutaha whose sublime timing and running line meant an unstoppable move and an excellent 5 points. Luke White converted and it was game on!
It wasn’t long before the kicking competition between the sides started to reveal some differences in the game. Following a Stour attack the ball was chipped through Leicester defences only to find the boot of Aley. His punishing kick found touch inside Stour’s 22 and the defensive lineout was sent too long and lost to a grateful Wes Cope, taking the high bounce and offloading out left to an elusive Olowofela who rounded the defence and scored under the sticks. Aley converted and 14 – 7 was posted on the scoreboard.
Five minutes later, Stour were down to 14 men when a Yellow Card was shown to Nick Murphy for an alleged high tackle. The penalty lineout was taken and South Leicester used their dominance in the driving maul and hooker Dale Ager crashed over for another 5 points. Aley’s kick went wide and Stour now needed some serious work ethic to get back into the game.
Once again the return kick off was rewarded and Stour regained possession and Otutaha’s break was stopped illegally. Quick thinking by Petty saw a tap kick and long pass out to Dan Rundle on the right wing. Taking the ball high above his head he was still able to beat his opposite man giving some semblance of decency to the half time score at 19 – 12. However, had it not been for a forward pass to a man clear of the defence, South Leicester could have made it 24 -12 with just seconds remaining on the clock.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first. With just 4 minutes played SL centre was penalized for not rolling away after a tackle and Stourbridge took the option of a kick to touch. However, they failed to secure the ball and defence was soon turned into attack when the hosts broke out. Rapid passing was met with resolute defence but the momentum swing was too great for Stourbridge and a series of breakdowns and recycling meant an end to end (bonus point) try credited to No 4 Will Ward, converted by Rickie Aley and a 26 – 12 lead. It then took just 2 minutes for Olowofela to notch up his hatrick and 31 – 12 now looked a vary tough lead to overcome.
Not helped by Luke White’s HIA and a change of personnel, Stourbridge did show some promise when Jack Lea crashed over on 53 minutes following a penalty lineout, scrum and then pick and drive sequence. Petty snapped a quick drop goal conversion and the score was a little more respectable at 31 – 19. However, it was Petty’s alleged high tackle 8 minutes later that meant an easy 3 points for Aley, 34 – 19 and time running out for Stour. Hope was raised when Joe Heatley gathered a loose ball from a penalty lineout but Stour’s conversion went wide. With a last flurry, South Leicester’s confidence and spirit started to overcome a weary defence and 12 points were added in the last 3 minutes of the game. Firstly came a try for Chris Gibbs (16) who replaced Dale Ager, This was converted by Aley and, almost straight from the kick off he kicked ahead, once again testing the visitors’ defence. Unfortunately, they failed to gain possession and the industrious flanker Wes Cope scored a well-deserved try.
The result meant South Leicester leapfrogged Stourbridge in the league (even thought they won less games) to leave us in our second lowest position and some serious out of season thinking and recruitment to do.
Hopefully, spirits will lift over the next 7 days when Stourton Park hosts its annual corporate lunch and nigh on 1,500 guests are eagerly anticipating some wise and light hearted words from Eddie Jones, John Bentley, local celebrity Philip Serrell and Digby Marritt Jones, Baron Jones of Birmingham. It will also be great to catch up with Stourton Park favourite Glen Ella.
Saturday sees the ever-popular Ball whilst Sunday promises some great entertainment from two sides packed full of quality players. This is to raise money for Stacey Hurrell who is suffering from MS and hoping to undergo HSCT treatment. Stourbridge Dream Team takes on a Barbarians side which boasts a number of International players such as Thinus Delport, Alex Grove, Kevin Yates and Mark Woodrow. Our own squad will be packed full of quality including Tom Richardson, Pete White, Sam Baker and Adam Billig as well as Lions stars Cas and Fred Brookes.