Stour take all five points in this entertaining encounter
After an early season draw but scoring four tries against two in the previous encounter, a revved up Stour side were keen to show that rugby is also about scoring tries and winning!
After a hat trick of defeats, Stourbridge were keen to get back to winning ways against a South Leicester team that managed to fulfil a draw when last we met back in week 13 of the National Leagues. Ironically it was 26 apiece again, with the same two try configuration for our visitors and with points machine Rickie Aley slotting four penalties. We also welcome back three ex Stourbridge players in the form of Jacob Ham, Tom Harrison and Corey Venus. Jacob and Corey only managed 10 minutes between them whilst “Haribo” played the whole 80, most of which was in the ear of our referee!
It was the visitors who kicked off proceedings under a grey sky but relatively calm conditions particularly compared to last week’s match which was held in a blizzard. Stourbridge decided to run the ball out and spent the first two or three minutes attacking including a good break by Josh Trinham then followed by Dan Rundle and Hal Riley and again Trinham. Stour managed to bridge the 22 minute line but eventually conceded a penalty when not releasing the ball. Shortly after Ricky Ailey showed off his tactical skills by placing a deep kick inside the Home 22 line. The defence was isolated giving Aley a relatively simple penalty to open the scoring with just 5 minutes gone. Stour responded immediately with a series of slick moves and fluid play and were unlucky not to score through George Morgan when the final pass to him was judged to have gone forward. However, Stourbridge immediately won the scrum penalty and opted for the lineout catch and drive. Mark George crashed over with Chris Scott converting on 11 minutes. Three minutes later Aley hit another penalty following a high tackle.
However, it was the hosts who added to the scoreboard next with a well worked try again as a result of some fine interplay between forwards and backs. The ball found George Morgan who offloaded to fullback Robbie Forbes coming into the line from deep but still with work to do. His score was well out left and the right hand post defeated Scott’s kick.
“South” then re-gained immediate possession from the kick-off after some confusion and lack of communication between the receiving Stourbridge players. This gave them territory, possession and eventually another penalty following an offside decision. The visitors were also unlucky not score more points after two searing breaks by their powerful scrum half Adam Shaw. It was thanks to an unbelievable last-ditch cover tackle by Hal Riley that saved the day and considerable embarrassment for another lack of defensive concentration!
Apart from his attacking prowess, Shaw must also get a mention for being the only National League player to wear sunglasses on top of his head for his profile picture!
Back to the script and, following the replacement of injured Ben Tibbetts, Stour started to falter with some poor kicking decisions including one charge down that pressurised them with just 5 metres of space to work in. “South” managed to win a number of scrum penalties, culminating in Jack Spencer seeing a yellow card. This was following some front row shenanigans that referee Andrew Macneaney only saw half of! The end result, with a depleted set of forwards, gave the referee no option but to award a penalty try and the visitors took a lead for the second time after just 34 minutes. (This denied Aley the conversion attempt which would have replicated his previous score in our earlier encounter!)
Once again, the restart was followed by an attack against the Stourbridge line but inspirational Nigel Mukarati was having none of it. His tackle and steal was the catalyst to our next score after he ripped the ball away and passed (Yes! He can and does pass!) to George Morgan who broke out of the 22. He then fed Josh Trinham out right but was hauled down less than 5 metres out. The ball was recycled to the opposite touch line and was taken by Stefan Thorp who crashed over to make it 17 – 16 for a slim half time lead. In all credit to the home side, they did well in the final 6 minutes, not conceding any more points with just 13 men on the pitch.
The advantage lasted just 4 minutes until Aley kicked his 4th penalty of the afternoon but Chris Scott, in turn, cancelled this, out after Stour won a scrum penalty 30 metres out. Stourbridge were then restored to a full compliment of fifteen players and were keen to make home advantage count. Aley then missed his next chance on 52 minutes but South Leicester wing and the league’s second highest try scorer had different plans. Myles Bean (no relation to Mr Bean) latched on to play from inside his own half. His kick through and pace were too much for a defence that had to turn and back track giving him time to touch down close to the uprights and a simple conversion for Aley.
This was the last time that “South” were to score and the hosts were very much in the ascendancy particularly when Chris Scott hit another penalty from 30 metres out. Callum Bowden followed by a strong running break finding Josh Trinham who was starting to play with more possession than he has seen for several games. Again, he was tackled just short of the line, South Leicester cleared but the writing was on the wall and Stour’s dominance in all areas started to tell. Robbie Forbes, Dan Rundle and Trinham combined well as a back three division eventually finding enough territory to gain a penalty just 5 metres out. The 68th minute penalty lineout then gave Bowling Ball (aka Jack Lea) another bullocking try (thank you Spell Checker) which Chris Scott stroked over with ease. Stour were now ahead with a 4 points advantage but still with another 10 minutes on the clock. “South” did have one last chance through an offside penalty just 22 metres out but time and angles were too onerous to rely upon just 3 points. It is often the case that, when chasing points, mistakes are forced upon a team and this was no exception. South Leicester lost the ball and some 45 metres of territory. It was Josh Trinham who made the break, tracking his kick ahead and tackling the visitor’s defender with ball in hand.
With a minute left, Stour won a scrum on the 5-metre line and immediately turned this into a scrum penalty. They then opted for another set piece scrum that was neatly controlled at the back by Nigel Mukarati. Enter Hal Riley whose well-timed run hit a pop pass from the No 8 and nobody was either on hand or brave enough to stop the flying centre from scoring! Scott hit his 12th point of the afternoon and, combined with his work in defence and tactical kicking, earned him Man of the Match.
Stourbridge took a well-deserved five points and sent South Leicester home with nothing for their efforts. It leaves us in 4th place and a slim chance of a top two finish. However, all teams above us still have games in hand so it seems likely that we will see South Leicester and some of their players next season. The pre match talk revolved around playing hard but with enjoyment given that the serous pressures of the league campaign were now off. Looking back at the game, and notwithstanding some lapses, it would appear that the players responded well to this, given the open style of running and entertaining manner in which they played.
Next week, we have our Easter break but, thereafter, a very winnable fixture against Hinckley who have a game in hand but still six points behind us!
Enjoy your rabbits, chicks and eggs.
Above everything, may all your tries be converted.