Spirit and determination from the Senior side make up for Friday's loss by Lions
By Richard Stanley
This was a highly entertaining game in spite of "Nil Points" in the second half and some 35 minutes when Stour were camped inside their own half!
After the previous night’s local derby Lions loss to Old Hales, the Stourton Park faithful needed something to cheer about and were not disappointed with the outcome of this fascinating encounter!
Due to another late “cry off’ by Adam Shaw, combined with Rod Petty’s Lions appearance and unavailability, DoR Neil Mitchell was forced to make some last minute team changes. Young Sam Wilson started in the centre and Joe Heatley celebrated his 100th appearance by moving to No 9. Aaron Crofts made his first start in the engine room and many will remember his Dad, Lee Crofts who played for us in the early “Noughties”, providing plenty of entertainment for those who like the physical side of the sport.
League leaders Hull Ionians had only lost four games, prior to this one, all away from home and including the previous week’s fixture at Wharfedale, failing to secure any bonus points, in the process. Given Stour’s defeat at Brantingham Park, back in October 2018 (34-21) and last week’s loss to Hinckley, both sides were keen to get back to winning ways. However, as at 15:00 hrs. nobody would have thought that the game would unfold, as it did!
Stourbridge kicked off proceedings with a strong behind them but failed to capitalise on any possession particularly when their first probing kick was carried dead resulting in a Hull scrum on half way. The counter only managed to gain a few metres before a forward pass gave the ball back to the hosts. This time their kick found touch but only after bouncing a fingertip too high and out of reach from the chasing backs!
Ionians lineout catch was clean but Stour’s forwards were able to pressurise their visitors enough to be rewarded with a scrum on the 5m line. This needed a reset and Sam Montieri, Captain for the afternoon, picked the ball from the base. His turn and run out wide were enough to evade the attentions of wing man Toni Kuku and he crashed over on the 8 minute mark. The conversion was far out towards the touchline and the wrong side for right-footed Chris Scott. However, in spite of this and a swirling wind, his kick bisected the uprights and Stourbridge were ahead and a lead that they defended for the remaining 71 minutes.
The remainder of the first half saw both sides in possession of the ball and, quite possibly “Evens Stevens” on territory. Breaks by Dan Rundle, Mark Harrison and Joe Heatley were enough to negate the strong running from their opposite numbers. Stour did have an opportunity to extend their lead following a 23rd minute penalty taken on the half way line. Chris Scott had the distance but a cross wind meant that his kick drifted wide.
The restart saw a penalty to Stour after a Hull high tackle but the subsequent possession was thwarted by loose ball, driving rain and good defence from the visitors. Shortly after, Stour’s third tactical kick of the afternoon was carried beyond the dead ball line and Hull’s scrum was again set on the halfway line. They were able to battle towards the home try line but were repelled a number of times until referee Philip Davies spotted several infringements and play finally halted after penalty advantages had been called. With 40 minutes now played Hull opted for a safe three points when centre, Lewis Miniken stroked the ball over from in front of the posts. Half time whistle was heard across Stourton Park even with a howling gale blowing and torrential rain falling!
The Rugby Paper describes the game as “…a war of attrition…” They were not wrong given the definition as being "...the process of reducing someone's strength or effectiveness through sustained attack or pressure"! Ionians kicked off the final forty minutes with wind and rain advantage. The first 23 minutes were spent inside Stour’s half and much of this time within 22 metres! This was due to a number of reasons including Stourbridge battling out but kicking the ball away, returned by Hull’s inability to hang on to an ever-greasier ball.
Dan Rundle was doing his best to regain territory but it was a combined Chris Scott and Joe Heatley break that finally gave Stour some breathing space. By this time, both sides were showing signs of fatigue with players breathing heavily and suffering from cramp. Hull did manage to regain territory including a kick over the try line that was touched down just in time and leading to a “22 dropout”. This was charged down but the resolute defence held firm and the danger was over (for a while).
With some 20 minutes left to play came a turning point in the game when the skies brightened, the wind died down and it stopped raining! This took away a lot of the Hull advantage but did little to arrest the onslaught! Another memorable moment was when the Hull Scrum Half, Adam Thomas, was clattered to the floor and was struggling to get up. In a sporting gesture, replacement Mark George stayed with him, momentarily, signalled to the bench and ensured the player was OK before returning to play. The game was stopped and fortunately the injury was not too serious.
The final “coup de grace” was a moment of brilliance from Nigel Mukarati when he stole the ball from a Hull attack. This gave Stour some vital possession with seconds remaining and enough to run down the clock. The ball was sent back to Chris Scott who hoofed it over the stand to rapturous applause and a notable victory where no points were added during the second half and at least 35 minutes played in one half of the pitch!
Man of the Match was “The Entire Team” with too many great performances to separate the players. However, some pivotal moments came from Aaron Crofts, Nigel Mukarati and our Back Three, Front Row, Back Row, Engine Room and Half Backs. The centres also contributed well including strong running by Hal Riley and a mature start from Sam Wilson.
Next week, Hull entertain struggling South Leicester who are in 14th place whilst Stourbridge travel to old adversaries, Wharfedale. They are in 11th spot just 2 points behind Stour but with a game in hand so this is a vital fixture for both sides!