Club stalwart Sturdy leads team on his 300th appearance in a Stourbridge shirt. Lead changes hands five times in this exciting snow bound encounter
By Richard Stanley
If Stourbridge were to have any realistic chance of promotion, this was a “must win” game but the loss of 8 key players meant that DoR Neil Mitchell was unable to field his top 20 squad.
Well! It could be worse!
England ended in 5th place but Stour are currently 4th in the league still with 5 games to play and some hope of a play off place…
If Stourbridge were to have any realistic chance of promotion, this was a “must win” game but the loss of 8 key players meant that DoR Neil Mitchell was unable to field his top 20 squad. This takes nothing away from guys who were selected and a debut try by Phillip Bowden gave the 175 strong crowd something to cheer on the 7 minutes mark!
Weather conditions changed from bright to blizzard and sunshine to snow but against the wind, it was the hosts who got the first score. Stour won a scrum penalty out right and some loose ball was gathered by by Josh Trinham. His speculative kick ahead was gathered by Joe Heatley and an inside pass to Niall Gibbons found Nigel Mukarati. The ball was sent to Phillip Bowden who, still with work to do, jinked inside two defenders and scored close enough to give Robbie Forbes a chance to secure the extra 2 points.
Tigers responded after just 3 minutes when danger man James Broadley ghosted in from 25 metres out. Former Rotherham Titans, Broadley has 24 tries to his name which is six more than anyone else in this league! Five minutes later, tight head prop Ed Simmons charged over after the hosts conceded a deliberate knock on penalty. Lineout catch and drive gave the opportunity but Thomas Farrell was unable to convert the extras.
The game remained scoreless for the remaining minutes of the half and the recollection of play was somewhat hampered by the writer having to donate coat and gloves to an enthusiastic if somewhat shivering ball girl.
Half time score was 7 – 10 and with wind advantage, the hosts were hopeful for a half of territory and possession. It started well when the ever-industrious Nick Murphy crashed over after just 5 minutes. Tigers were caught offside and the 5 metres penalty lineout saw a great catch by Llyr Griffiths. He fed 300cap/captain Adam Sturdy and Murphy was in support.
Replacement prop Stef Thorp then added another try 10 minutes later after the hosts won a penalty when Nigel Mukarati stole the ball and a subsequent penalty was awarded. Robbie Forbes kicked to touch and Thorp was on the end of yet another Stour catch and drive! Forbes added the conversion and it was now 19 – 10.
At this stage, it is probably fair to say that sky conditions were varying from blue to grey and visibility from zero to eternity! The 365 AGP ensured the game could be played at ground level but air quality was less forgiving!
Tigers hit back with a second try from Ed Simmons but Farrell failed to convert, as did he for Tigers Bonus point try scored by openside flanker Matt Adcock on the 67-minute mark. However, he made up for this just 3 minutes later when the No 10 stretched Tigers’ lead to 19 – 25 with a try of his own.
Playing against the wind, the visitors bombarded Stour territory with a series of high kicks that eluded the home defence either through lack of judgement or lack of commitment. The tactic worked and halted Stour’s counter attacks for a good proportion of the second half.
The game then took a twist when replacement prop Mark George made his mark less than 15 minutes after his arrival on the pitch. A penalty lineout gave Stour a chance to batter the Tigers’ line which eventually found Mark George and Robbie Forbes conversion gave Stour a hard earned but short lived lead.
Straight from the restart, Tigers attacked through danger man James Broadley and a high tackle resulted in a penalty advantage for Sheffield Tigers. Advantage was played but referee Charles Gayther called play back for Tigers to opt for a penalty kick.
So, after near Arctic and blizzard like conditions, at circa 16:20, the clouds dispersed, skies cleared from grey to blue, the snow disappeared and the wind dropped. Enter Thomas Farrell who stroked over the final kick of the game to give Sheffield their “double” win. There was still time for a restart and, to their credit, Stour won the ball but a sloppy final pass went to touch and referee Gayther blew for full time!
At this juncture, the weather changed yet again and both sides struggled to find the sidelines for final eulogies, battling against a strong head wind and driving snow. 90 seconds earlier, such conditions could have thwarted the Farrell penalty but fair play, Sheffield Tigers had come away with five well-deserved points leaving Stour with just 2 points.
As a semi-professional club we cannot compel players to be available for all match days for a 30-week season, let alone a potential 37 weeks. (Luctonians play Sale on 12 May!) However, lying second in the table and losing players to non-rugby preferences is a malaise that could cost us dearly.
Furthermore, three of our team mates had been recalled by their parent club and, despite some strong representations, in times of need, they have been withheld until further notice.
Next week, we host South Leicester who managed a Home 26 – 26 draw. This was mainly through the boot of Rickie Aley who supplemented their two tries and nullified our four tries. He has now amassed 298 league points and leads the National Leagues by a country mile!
It was great to see Phil Bowden score on his debut, Robbie Forbes hitting 75% of his kicks and the likes of Niall Gibbons stepping up to a start at blind side flanker. Dan Rundle played out of position at fullback and on loan Liam Mather came back to fill second row replacement.
Now that the internationals are behind us, it needs all of our supporters to follow suit and get behind the team giving full voice to the next three home games and two away fixtures at Hinckley and Macclesfield