Hat Trick hero Dan Rundle seals the deal for Stour who take the points despite illness and injury!
By Richard Stanley
A depleted side was able to overcome some last minute changes after key players were ruled out or reduced to the bench and talisman Montieri stretchered off after just 8 minutes!
Stour made the relatively short trip to Wigston Magna knowing that this game was crucial for both teams and aware that, just 2 weeks ago, “South” had beaten highflying Hinckley. Their 30-25 win was added to the scalp of Huddersfield, earlier in the season and a large crowd celebrating the club’s Centenary was also going to add to home advantage. The hosts would be looking to repeat their last fixture in an endeavor to climb out of the relegation zone whilst Stour would want to move up the table and put some space between themselves and the bottom chasing pack
Many of the squad had chosen to go ‘direct’ to the game but when the main contingent arrived, DoR Neil Mitchell was greeted with some last minute issues with sickness and illness affecting several first choice players. James Seabrook was unable to take any part in the game although he did assist with warm up preparations. Nick Cairns moved up to start at Open Side. Joe Heatley had been unable to train all week and his condition was only slightly better so he was moved to the bench. This meant a start for Gareth Simpson whilst a soon to be vexed veteran in the form of Rod Petty came in to make up the full compliment.
Mark George was also suffering with sickness and a touch of jet lag so this was never going to be a ‘done deal’! Certainly, it was unlikely to replicate the earlier 15 Try bonanza at Stourton Park when Stour came out winners by 57-45 but having lead by 40-7 at half time! Stourbridge won the toss and, strangely, chose to play with wind advantage in first half but the decision was vindicated, somewhat given a slight easing of conditions at the turn around!
The visitors did concede an early penalty after a high tackle and this allowed ‘South’ some territorial gain but their kick failed to make touch and the ball was returned with interest. Shortly after they did manage to find touch giving Stour an opportunity to use their driving maul. This was done superbly and the ball was transferred neatly through several hands until penalty advantage was given. The ball was then released to the backs, finding speedster Dan Rundle who ‘crabbed’ across to the right making enough space for himself to advance into the corner for the first try of the afternoon and on his way to a well-earned hat trick!
Five points to nil with just six minutes on the clock was looking good for Stourbridge but then things took a turn for the worse as ‘South’ took the restart. Sam Montieri found himself on the wrong side of a pile up and as play moved away it was clear that the talisman No 8 was suffering. Play was stopped for about 25 minutes whilst medical staff tended Sam and he was stretchered off. The latest news is that his leg is not broken and we all wish him a speedy recovery. Newcomer Mike Worthington came on at Blind Side whilst Nigel Mukarati moved to 8. Mike is a utility flanker/hooker so it was likely that Jack Lea would need to see out the rest of the game!
As the game moved on, Chris Scott used the wind to drive the ball deep into home territory leading to a struggling defence and, eventually, Stour possession. A neat ‘pick and go’ double released the ball to Hal Riley who crashed over on the 12 minute mark and Chris Scott slotted the conversion from a tricky angle and in a swirling cross field wind. Stourbridge knocked on from the restart and South Leicester then won a penalty from the resulting scrum. However, the lineout ball was stolen by Stour and it was then Dan Rundle’s turn to hoof the ball down field.
“South’ then dragged themselves back into the game, breaking out from their own half and threatening the visitors’ try line. In the process, they won a series of penalties but, instead of opting for a simple 3-points, chose to take a number of scrums. The pressure final told and No 8 Joe Collingham crashed over from the base of the scrum giving Fly Half Dan Glasse a simple conversion and a 7-12 score with some 30 minutes on the clock. The rest of the half remained scoreless but saw both sides make various forays into opposition territory. Stour made their gains through some good running by Hal Riley, Mark Harrison and centre Sam Wilson. (Has anyone seen Sam Wilson and Saracens/England Alex Goode in the same room together!?). However, they conceded a number of penalties, somewhat negating any advantages otherwise gained.
Half time came shortly after a ‘South’ penalty which took them back inside Stour’s half but nothing came of it and both sides returned to the changing rooms likely to face some stern words from their respective coaching staff. Upon their returns to the field of play, it was noticeable that the wind had dropped a little and it took just 3 minutes for Dan Rundle to notch up his second score. It came after Gareth Simpson threw an outrageously long looping pass releasing Rundle to the right and then to Reece Beddows. This led to a scrum on the 5-metre line and the feed was, once more sent to Dan Rundle. His sheer pace took him around the defence and enough time to head towards the posts giving Chris Scott his second conversion of the afternoon.
It was also Chris Scott who took the next score with a penalty kick after some great running by Reece Beddows, Mark Harrison, Hal Riley and Dan Rundle which took play from deep inside their own “22” back into home territory. At this point, it is fair to mention that some excellent first half-lineout work by the Stourbridge forwards had given grief to South Leicester. So much so, they were now looking to throw long, avoiding the clutches of Messrs.’ Nick Murphy, Nick Cairns and Llyr Griffiths. Given the conditions, this was, perhaps, the wrong thing to do and much of their second half lineout ball was lost.
Back to the game…and it only took another 3 minutes before Stour scored again. It came from a ‘South’ knock on in the lineout and a Stourbridge scrum. The ball was sent out left where Mark Harrison broke the gain line and he off loaded to Dan Rundle on the half way. With his speed and the hosts being on the back foot, there was only going to be one winner and Rundle outpaced the defence to score his third and close enough for Chris Scott to add the conversion. 7-29 after 51 minutes should have been enough but enter Reece Beddows who scored Stour’s 5th Try 20 minutes later even though they had given away a series of penalties and possession. Stour had strung a number of moves that gave them penalty chances in front of the South Leicester posts. The second quick tap saw a Yellow Card given to a hapless Javiah Pohe and a third nearly saw Mark Harrison cut in half after a huge pass by Sam Wilson, out right. However, the ball fell loose for Reece Beddows to gather and the pacey winger ducked outside and scampered over for his score.
In an ever-sporting gesture, player coach Rod Petty entered the fray and just 7 minutes later departed, accompanied by a Yellow Card thus evening out the numbers to 14 men a side. However, the immediate return of Pohe saw a reverse in numerical advantage and a try by Second Row Tom Cheney closely followed by Pohe, himself, scoring in the dying seconds. The final whistle blew after Glasse had added the extra two points and the game finished 19-34 with the hosts unable to secure any bonus points.
In spite of getting his hat trick, Dan Rundle missed out on the Man of the Match award that went to Sam Wilson! His all round effort in attack and defence plus a sparkling entrance at 10 closing the deal for Neil Mitchell.
Next week, Stourbridge entertain Chester who narrowly defeated Hull Ionians by 26-20, securing a bonus point, in the process. This moved them to second place, just 2 points behind Fylde and with a game in hand.
With a full house expected and the Ex Presidents holding their annual lunch this should be a great afternoon to watch some exciting rugby so we look forward to seeing as many supporters as possible in what promises to be a super occasion for local sport.
Match report by Richard Stanley, pics by Andy Cook