10 try thriller decided on final whistle
By Richard Stanley
Stourbridge avenged the away defeat in February but left it until the last minute to secure maximum points against a strong side that were intent on mounting a challenge for one of the promotion places in this highly competitive league.
Conditions were perfect with both sides keen to play open running rugby under a clear blue sky and in front of 300+ supporters including 15 Past Presidents and a reunion lunch. The game contained 10 tries, 6 of which were scored by “Dale” and the visitors must rue the fact that their kicker had left his boots back in Corbridge! Indeed, those nine missed points may have cost them the hope of promotion but there is still all to play for!
It was Stour who scored first, immediately from their kick off and an infringement just 24 metres out gave Fly Half, Robbie Forbes, the simplest of kicks in front of the posts. The return kick off saw Stourbridge lose possession and the ball going into touch out left. Dale secured lineout ball and Blindside Flanker Joe Mills crashed over with 3 minutes on the clock.
A few minutes later, the hosts had a chance to take the lead but Forbes’ penalty attempt went wide of the posts. With both sides keen to play attacking rugby.Territory and possession changed hands several times over the next 10 minutes and a 60 metre break by the hosts was unrewarded when the final pass was dropped with just a few feet to go! However, Stour won the scrum and Hooker Jack Lea bowled over the line on 15 minutes, Robbie Forbes converted and the slender lead was a target that Tynedale were soon to hit!
Straight from the kick off, Dale gained penalty advantage after a deliberate knock on by a Stourbridge defender. The attacking side and industrious Hooker David Batey secured lineout ball and a slightly unsighted referee confirmed his touch down and Jake Rodgers hit his first successful kick.
Tynedale’s lead was extended just four minutes later after an incisive attack by No 15 James Spencer, which Rodgers was also unable to convert but it was now 10–17 and the game was really starting to pulsate. Joe Heatley gathered a speculative kick ahead by Dale, inside his own half and a counter attack linked through a number of hands until play broke down for a Tynedale infringement on the 22 m line which Forbes stroked over.
From the kick off, Hal Riley gathered the ball and Forbes’ clearance was returned to the half way line. Stour won a lineout penalty and kicked the ball long but failed to capitalise on their own lineout ball. Possession was lost and Tynedale started a strong counter, which was finished by their Right Winger Aedan Moloney, on 37 minutes. This time it was replacement kicker Aaron Smith who missed the extras but Dale were nine points clear.
Enter Man of The match, Niall Gibbons who had spent a very busy first period in both attack and defence. His efforts were well rewarded straight from the kick off after Stour stole the ball and, still with work to do, he broke tackles and headed for the whitewash for Forbes’ conversion to see out the half and a 20 – 22 score line!
The second half was going to prove equally exciting and whilst the visitors were now playing with the wind, it was, perhaps, Stour’s dominance in the set pieces that was to prove the difference between the two teams. Niall Gibbons was to continue his first half form with a number of strong runs and crunching tackles. On 44 minutes, the hosts secured a scrum penalty and subsequent possession saw a slick break by Robert Connolly and a nice little “one/two” with Joe Heatley. The final inside pass went to the Peter Pan of rugby, Rod Petty who touched down under the posts and his own conversion made the score 27-22.
The next 15 minutes went scoreless, thanks to a superb try saving tackle by Hal Riley who chased across to haul down the attacking player after a 40-metre break and just 10 metres to go! Tynedale continued to attack but were repulsed by some staunch defensive work and Stour were also playing fast rugby with a confidence not seen for several weeks.
Their efforts were rewarded on 62 minutes after winning a penalty that Rod Petty slotted deep into the right corner. Another infringement by the defence saw Stour opt for a scrum on the 5 m line and Nigel Mukarati took control at the base and his pop pass to Hal Riley was always going to meet with reward. The lead had been stretched to 10 points but still with 18 minutes left, Tynedale were determined to hit back with vengeance!
Two tries, in quick succession, by No 11 Oliver Walker were enough reward for his earlier contributions and Rodgers single conversion ensured a two-point lead 32-34. At this stage, the game could have gone to an “Away win” particularly after George Morgan was sin binned for a very marginal high tackle with 5 minutes left on the clock. However, the character and confidence of Stourbridge players, combined with a desire to take revenge from earlier in the season was going to be crucial and they spent the rest of the game in attack.
The hosts were awarded a penalty for Tynedale tackling high. Strangely, the referee did not follow suite by sending the offending player from the field of play! This incident was followed by a free kick and another penalty with the clock now well and truly stopped. Step up player coach and veteran of many a battle, Rod Petty. Whether he was taking responsibility, charge or glory, he opted to take the kick himself. In front of a hushed crowd he carefully placed the ball and calmly kicked with some 300 breaths held and six hundred fingers crossed!
The author has no idea what happened as he had now turned his back and was praying silently into a well scribbled note book. However, the roar of the crowd was enough to confirm a successful end to the game and a thoroughly deserved 5-point bonus win.
We wish Tynedale all the best for their coming 3 games, but it would be great to see them next season and visit a picturesque ground where we always receive a great welcome. As for Stourbridge, the best we can do is 4th place and 5th, at worst! Next week we travel to 8th place Macclesfield and it would be good to see as many of you as possible make this relatively short trip.
Our final game is at home to Otley on 28th April and this promises to be an entertaining game. We beat them, up at their place 21-42 on 2nd September and they will surely want to prove a point, on the road.
After, this final match, the long journey into next season begins and DoR Neil Mitchell is already planning ahead by seeking out new faces, talking to old ones and securing signatures that will carry this great club into our 153rd year!
Match Report by Richard Stanley, pics by Ceri Davies