Definitely a "...Game of two halves..."
By Richard Stanley
Travel weary and injury hit Stour come against a Nemesis side intent on making a statement! Further injuries to Chad Thorne, Chris Scott and Tom Dodd give DoR Neil Mitchell cause for concern but Stour Man of The match Nick Murphy continues to improve!
So…. 12 tries last week and 13 tries this week, suggest another close encounter between two evenly matched sides…or does it? If you are from the North East of England, you may disagree with this surmise but in all fairness, both teams played some great rugby, the difference being a 500 seconds spell immediately after the whistle blew for the second half!
This match was played as a result of misjudged and adverse weather conditions on 9th December when Stour made the arduous journey to Corbridge, only to find that the pitch was unplayable. ‘Dale did pay for the error but who is to say that the result could have been different had that original fixture been fulfilled?
A second road trip in seven days is never ideal, particularly when five key players are missing through injury or personal commitments. The intensity of the previous week’s game also took its toll. However, at 06:45 on Saturday the team set off from Stourton Park knowing that, win or lose, they would still be in 2nd place with all to play for!
Conditions were ideal. The pitch was soft but with plenty of grass on it. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. After their flood damage and club house issues, our hosts were now back in business on a ground that has few rivals for scenery and hospitality! There was also a strong and icy cold wind that the hosts played against for the first 40 minutes.
One local did advise the management team that …”there is a Yellow Snow warning due…” but the non-skiers amongst us failed to see why our colleagues guffawed at his statement!
‘Dale kicked off proceedings and immediately gained a penalty when the Stour receiver knocked on to a player in front. A quick tap penalty set their stall out for the afternoon for running rugby and showing two slick passes out to the left found No 11, Ollie Walker who darted over for the first five points. Injuries then halted proceedings when Tynedale tight head prop Colin Scullion was stretchered off following a collision with Chad Thorne. Referee Callum Sharp could not allow Stour to do an HIA on Chad and he managed just 25 minutes more before having to walk off with a sore neck and little feeling in his shaky arm.
In the meantime, Tom Dodd also came off following a Stour Yellow card infringement by Sam Wilkes. Ironically, Stour scored 24 unanswered points (17 when down to just 14 men) including a Chris Scott penalty. Four minutes later, Robbie Forbes crossed the line after some good work through a Ben Tibbetts break. The ball went to (Stour Man of the Match) Nick Murphy who dropped his shoulder in the tackle to “bounce” his assailant. The ruck was followed by quick recycling via Sam Pailor and Tom Dodd when the ball was popped to Forbes, scoring by the posts.
Stour’s second next came after some sustained attacking by ‘Dale but a speculative pass was predicted by an alert Alex Hearle who intercepted and sprinted a full 70 metres but having to swerve out towards the touch line, evading the tracking defence. Chris Scott hit the conversion and the visitors were ahead by 5 – 17!
Stour were now back to full strength and stretched their lead through a penalty try after 'Dale conceded a number of infringements. The visitors utilised both lineout and scrum but were not prepared for the onslaught to follow. No 15 Jake Rodgers scored a well worked try just 2 minutes later after some slick interplay capped by a looping pass out left to the fullback who ran in, almost untouched. Tyndale’s right-winger Guy Pike then added the 6th try of the game after eluding a miscellany of half tackle attempts and No 10, Ash Smith, slotted the first two of his 13-point tally.
However, at 17-24 down, Stour had the last score of this half. It followed a clever chip kick by scrum half, Ben Tibbetts where the ball hit the touch line and ‘Dales lineout was stolen by Nick Murphy. The hosts then conceded two more penalties and Stour opted for a scrum, just 5 m out. Sam Pailor controlled the ball nicely at the back of a dominant drive and with 43 minutes played, Stour found themselves 17 – 29 to the good.
Full of confidence, Stour kicked off the 2nd half but were playing against a stiff breeze. The hosts countered immediately and the die was cast after No 7 Louis Frankland ghosted through from 60 metres out. Ash Smith thus instigating the most unbelievable passage of play many of us have witnessed converted the try! The wind advantage was ignored as Tynedale kept ball in hand and amassed a further twenty-one points through tries by Smith, Richard Elliot (playing at tight head but spotting gaps like a seasoned half back!) and speedster Nicholas Cairns who, at blind side flanker, possessed the winged feet of Mercury. Ash Smith converted all these tries and Tynedale had reversed the scores taking a 16 points advantage with 30 minutes to play.
Stourbridge now had some catching up to do and, as always in these situations, the risks have to be taken! Without being too partisan, it is fair to say that the visitors had the majority of territory and possession for the remainder of the game. However, a 16 points deficit means the risk/reward coefficient can often lead to negatives. Indeed, after 22 minutes of attack, Stour failed to gain any meaningful territory. It was akin to the strong English defence against the armies of Scotland who failed to breach the Roman defences constructed by Hadrian at his nearby wall.
It was the third interception try of the afternoon that sealed the game for Tynedale when No 14 Guy Pike latched on to a speculative pass and scored his second try of the game. Ash Smith converted with less than 6 minutes to play and it was mission impossible for Stour to improve on their 43rd minute Bonus Point!
We now face seven more games with a potential 35 points at take. Four of these are at home against Sheffield, South Leicester and, of course, the return fixture against Tynedale on 14th April before the last match versus Otley!
Main photo courtesy of Paul Davidson - album photos courtesy of Andy Cook