Five Bonus Points bagged against a spirited Wharfedale side that refused to give up!
By Richard Stanley
This was a ‘must win’ game for the home side if they were to keep in touch with the top sides in this highly competitive league. A win was also required to entertain the five hundred strong crowd. This included the critical eyes of some 120 ex players
This was a ‘must win’ game for the home side if they were to keep in touch with the top sides in this highly competitive league. A win was also required to entertain the five hundred strong crowd. This included the critical eyes of some 120 ex players who had gathered for their annual pilgrimage to Stourton Park intent on talking over old campaigns, lubricated with some of our fine local ales and wine!
Conditions were somewhat better than the previous 36 hours, with torrential rain having abated but still with dark clouds passing overhead. These were being carried by some strong and gusting winds yet temperatures were around 22-23 degrees! It was inevitable that the side who mastered these conditions would prevail in a game against two fairly evenly matched teams.
Both sides had won 3 games but ‘Dale were 2 places above their hosts by virtue of an additional Bonus Point including a 39-22 win against PGH when danger man Jack Blakeney-Edwards scored 14 points through his boot! The 21 year old former Otley and DMP Fly Half has yet to enter the Top Points Scorer table this season but, with another 12 point tally this week, will soon start to emerge if his form continues. Indeed, he was ‘Star Man’ according to The Rugby Paper but it was our own Joe Heatley who was to get this accolade from DoR Neil Mitchell.
The visitors kicked off proceedings, playing with wind advantage and it needed all the might of the forwards for Stour to battle out of their own 22 m territory. However, it was Full Back Mark Harrison who changed the pattern after just two minutes when the ball was fed out right into his grateful hands. The speedster stepped on the gas and out paced several defenders to race full 70 metres for the first try of the game. Rickie Aley added the extras.
The next passages of play were in a similar vein, which included some intense running by Nigel Mukarati, Sam Montieri and Nick Cairns. Reece Beddows made a searing break to cross the halfway line and with ‘Dale on the back foot, a clever chip by Rickie Aley was only thwarted by a last ditch effort by the visitors’ defence. However, sustained Stour pressure was rewarded by a penalty which led to the ever hungry George Morgan picking up loose ball to crash over on 12 minutes for the second try and Aley’s conversion effort close enough not to be bothered by the wind.
Straight from the restart it was Wharfedale’s turn to trouble the scorer as Stour conceded a penalty in front of the posts. Step up Jack Blakeney-Edwards (Forthwith to be known as JBE) for a simple wind assisted 3 points. Showing how strong this was, the Stourbridge restart almost reached the ‘dale 22 m line before being blown back to find touch on half way! Stour did regain possession as Wharfedale fumbled the lineout ball and had to spend the next 5 minutes defending further close running and inter passing by a rampant Stour pack.
Another Reece Beddows break created an ‘offside penalty’ chance but Aley’s kick was always going to be an outside chance, given the distance and conditions. However, 5 minutes later Stour’s domination of territory and possession forced a knock on error by the visitors. The ever alert Joe Heatley pounced on loose ball and forced himself through some desperate arms, scoring the 3rd try of the day with Aley’s conversion making the score 21-3 with 27 minutes on the clock. ‘Dale thwarted further attacks through George Morgan and his cousin, Hal Riley who fell to a fine ‘tap’ tackle but Stour were subsequently penalised for ‘not rolling away’.
This led to Wharfedale notching up 12 unanswered points in 6 minutes when Scrum Half Sam Gaudie and wingman Oliver Cicognini both touched down but only one JEB conversion was successful. The latter came from a suicidal clearance kick attempt from centimetres in front of the Stour try line! It could have been more. However, Mark Harrison stopped a great break from Harry Bullough and a later steal by Rob Connolly broke the visitors’ momentum.
The first half ended after a monumental clearance kick from Wharfedale was expected to go beyond the dead ball line. Instead, the bounce defeated both the wind and expectations from the Stourbridge defence, trickling into touch, close to the right side corner flag! Stourbridge players and management must have been delighted with a 21-15 lead at half time, given that the second half wind advantage should carry them through to comfortable win….
Commencement of second half play was punctuated by a number of errors and penalties including an alleged high tackle on the diminutive Wharfedale Scrum Half who ducked into the defender. Stour were then punished for ‘not rolling away’. Good defence then caused a Wharfedale knock on but the referee’s whistle was far too quick to allow advantage played and Stour were called back in spite of some good advantage ball. The next error (by the hosts) led to a Wharfedale score when the ball was kicked straight into touch. They battled up field and second row George Hedgley pounced on loose ball but too far out for JEB to convert.
After 48 minutes it was now 21-20 and Rickie Aley steadied the ship following another great steal by Nigel Mukarati. 2 minutes later Aley hit a difficult penalty shot from 28 metres but cleverly allowing for wind direction! The Wharfedale return kick off appeared not to go a full 10 metres, remarkably missed by both referee and AR. Play was allowed to continue leading to unnecessary pressure on the home defence which, fortunately, was relieved through the boot of Aley. Wharfedale had a further opportunity, again through an alleged high tackle on their No 9.
Stour were able to repel further attacks and after a number of well-earned penalties for themselves managed their Bonus Point Try on 67 minutes. A quick tap penalty in right field was fed out left into the vocally led arms of Dan Rundle who scored a well-taken Try converted by Rickie Aley. At 31-20 it would seem that Stour could now look to settle into a comfortable period but the visitors had other ideas. They could have scored twice had it not been for an excellent cover tackle by Mark George on 70 minutes. However, it was that man JEB who salvaged a Bonus Point with a well taken, self-converted Try after a quick tap penalty on 73 minutes.
Victory was eventually secured after a fitter and more disciplined home side added six more penalty points via the Aley boot on 78 and 80 minutes. The former was taken after referee Luke Davies lost patience with No 8 Josh Burridge, sent to the bin after slowing down play. The final points were secured on the stroke of full time and Stourbridge returned their 4th win of the campaign by 37-27.
This great win puts Stour 7th in the league on 20 points and just 10 behind leaders Hull Ionians but only 6 points off 3rd spot Sedgley Park! Next week, we host South Leicester who are in ninth place with 17 points. This could see an interesting development in our fascinating league hierarchy. Chester are away at Hull Ionians and Fylde play second place Hinckley! At best, Stour could advance two places so it would be great if we could see as many of you as possible to cheer on the boys in Blue and White!