A game "...shrouded in controversy..." sees a resurgent Stourbridge team undefeated in 3 outings
By Richard Stanley
Stourbridge notched up their 12th league point in three games with an outstanding performance against potential league champions Chester. A brace from Dan Rundle and with the Bonus Point on 42 minutes ensured that the home side keeps some distance between
On Saturday, Stourbridge welcomed 23 former Presidents for their annual lunch and also a similar welcome to Chris Roddy who has returned to Stourton Park after his recent spell at Preston. This was an important game for the home side that are still below mid-table and very much in need of maximum points to ensure their current league status for another year. However continuing fitness worries and injury meant that the starting lineup was cut to the bone and veteran player coaches Adam Sturdy and Rod Petty were on the bench. Adam Sturdy then had to come on with just minute gone as Stef Thorpe’s foot injury had become intolerable.
Following a good win last week against South Leicester and a very special victory over table topping Hull, in the previous fixture, Stourbridge were looking confident and full of spirit but it needed all of their experience and talent to counter a strong Chester side who are very much in contention for a promotion spot.
The home site started well to include turnover ball in the line out and, with just five minutes on the clock, a neat chip by Joe Heatley saw the ball recycled with skipper Llyr Griffiths on the end who charged over for the first score of the afternoon and close enough for Gareth Simpson to add the extras. This set the scene for the afternoon where Stourbridge continued to stay ahead of the game outscoring the opposition in terms of territory possession and points.
However there was an uncharacteristic momentary lapse of concentration, which saw the hosts lose penalty line out ball that was sent out to the Chester Full Back Tom Foden. He threw a neat dummy to his left and created inside space for a near uncontested run from the 22 m line and close enough for Centre James Robins to slot the conversion even though time had ticked past the minute mark when the ball had blown off the kicking tee, a number of times.
Stourbridge were then next to score a well worked Try just a few minutes later after Fly Half Sam Wilson stepped inside to break the gain line and then threw a sublime looping pass out left into the arms of Dan Rundle. Still with work to do, the speedster stepped his opposite number and scampered around the outside dotting down with just 11 minutes gone. The conversion attempt was sent wide but Stour were now 12-7 ahead. The next few passages of play involved further dominance by the hosts including some telling breaks by Mark Harrison, Joe Heatley and Jack Lea. They were unlucky not to score on 19 minutes and a clever break was only just defeated by the touchline. However, Dan Rundle did not have long to wait for his second Try of the afternoon. This time, it was a Stourbridge scrum on the half way line that saw Gareth Simpson pass out left. Sam Wilson and Joe Heatley combined well and Reece Beddows came into the line. He was tackled 40 metres out but the ball was quickly picked up and released left to Dan Rundle who had enough gas to run round the opposition scoring close to the posts. Gareth Simpson added with his conversion.
The Chester machine then started to work and they were awarded a series of penalties in front of Stourbridge posts. Instead of opting for a certain 3 points, they continued with lineouts and scrums. Joe Heatley’s interception was called back with the centre clear, halted only by the whistle and a penalty advantage. Stour then found themselves down to 14 men when Nick Murphy was Yellow Carded and this advantage was enough for Chester No 8 Shay Owen to find space with a ‘pick and go’ from the tail of a ruck. Robins was unable to add the conversion and, shortly after, the half time whistle sounded out with Stourbridge ahead by 19-12.
It took just 2 minutes into the second-half for Stourbridge to add their bonus point try, which was scored by Centre Hal Riley. The hosts had kicked off the second half with slight wind advantage and Joe Heatley gathered Chester’s clearance kick. His neat chip countered the territory and took play up to 25 m. Stourbridge then secured opposition lineout ball winning a scrum, in the process. Gareth Simpson passed to Sam Wilson. He, in turn popped it to Hal Riley who was steaming in on a lovely, unstoppable angle, crashing over just to the right side of the uprights. Simpson added the two conversion points and Stour were seven points better off even still with a man down in the bin.
Chester hit straight back with another Shay Owen Try, converted by their Fly Half Callum Bennett. Indeed, they could have threated straight from the Stour kick off had it not been for James Seabrook ripping the ball away from the attacker! The next few passages of play could be considered as “Evens Stevens”. After some 65 minutes of play Stourbridge looked like they had the upper hand. Joe Heatley had put them back into the opposition territory and the hosts conceded a number of scrum penalties. They then spent the next 5-6 minutes in reset scrums on the Chester 5 m line and at this point it may be fair to refer to the independent report set out in Sunday’s edition of The Rugby Paper!
Their comment referred to the game being “…shrouded in controversy with the home side having a seemingly good try disallowed… back row Nick Cairns appeared to dot down but before the conversation could be taken, play was held up so that referee Phil Davies could receive treatment. When he was back on his feet he duly ruled out the try…” The player thought he had grounded the ball. Stourbridge teammates thought likewise and none of the 15-man Chester side appeared to differ. Indeed, some 300+ supporters also seemed to concur. Not so the referee and neither of the AR’s appeared to have been in a position to confirm the score.
Anyway! The rest, as they say, is history and Chester ground out a draw in the dying seconds when their excellent rolling maul trundled play towards the Stourbridge Try line after winning two penalties in a row and opting for lineout possession. Replacement Michael Craven battered over the line and Chester’s third kicker of the day, (replacement Josh Morris) held his nerve with a far from certain conversion kick!
The end result is that Chester share top place with Hull Ionians whilst Stourbridge remain in 11th place but with the knowledge that they are capable of beating any side in this league. To amass 12 points in the last three games is no mean feat and Saturday’s performance was outstanding whilst some of the passages of play were incredible!
Next weekend is a rest period or Stourbridge whilst Ionians look favourite to remain on top with a home game to South Leicester whilst Chester are away to Hinckley.
Photograph Courtesy of Ceri Davies