Two consolation bonus points were scant reward for this competent performance away from Home!
By Richard Stanley
Stour’s away record this season has been poor with just two wins on the road against relegation sides Peterborough and South Leicester. They managed a bonus point loss at Macclesfield (27-22) and on Saturday went down by a six-point margin.
Stour’s away record this season has been poor with just two wins on the road against relegation sides Peterborough and South Leicester. They managed a bonus point loss at Macclesfield (27-22) and on Saturday went down by a six-point margin that was similar to their home loss against Preston (PGH) when the score was 32-38!
However, they should consider themselves unlucky in many respects. With injury problems and a sub standard performance from the referee they managed to come away with two bonus points and despite the fact that 3 members of the management team were absent.
Key moments in the game included early lapses in defence through missed tackles whilst, in attack, two golden opportunities were squandered when players should have offloaded rather than be tackled short of the line. With just minutes left on the clock Dan Rundle was set free down the left wing with only the full back to beat. However, referee MacNeaney blew up for an alleged forward pass. Even the PGH bench and management seemed surprised (and somewhat amused) by this, as the pass appeared to be perfectly legal. However, a PGH defender had raced out of the line and the ball was sent behind him to Dan Rundle thus seemingly going forward in the eyes of the man with the whistle!
Conditions were bright and sunny with only a gentle breeze to affect the game and the visitors kicked off proceedings only to concede territory and possession. Typical of many games this season, Stour leaked early points after Spence dotted down, untouched with less than 2 minutes gone. The league’s 4th top highest points scorer, Tom Davidson added the conversion and just 3 minutes later he added a try of his own after Stour had conceded a penalty following some good work of their own. Davidson’s conversion grazed the right hand post but it was 12-0 with just five minutes gone.
However, the visitors then started to exert some more pressure after Luke Veebel fielded a chip ahead. Later some good lineout work by Nick Murphy and Nick Cairns resulted in Nigel Mukarati crashing over. Chris Scott added the conversion to make it 12-7 and Stour took the lead almost straight from the restart! Nick Murphy gathered the kick off and made some good gain line success. Mark Harrison then executed an excellent break followed by the Preston 15 losing the ball. The chip ahead found the foot of a chasing Dan Rundle who controlled and gathered the ball touching down for his 22nd score of the season and giving Chris Scott another conversion success.
PGH then went ahead after two good breaks putting the Stourbridge defence on the back foot. They would have scored a try but Mark Harrison managed to cover back and hold fast. However, the pressure was too great and PGH were awarded a scrum where troublesome No 8 Lamprey barged over the line giving Tom Davidson another 2-point conversion and a 19-14 lead.
It was then Chris Scott who, on his way to Man of the Match added a drop goal that Jonny Wilkinson would have been proud of. Not since 2008 have Stour managed this feat when a spritely Rod Petty managed this achievement. Nick Cairns had made a 40 m break but even with Joe Heatley in support he chose not to offload and momentum was halted. However, Stour were well inside the PGH ‘22’, both sides then swapped penalty opportunities the latter being a deliberate knock on by Preston. Playing advantage, the ball was passed back to Chris Scott. In what seemed to be slow motion, Scott played a “Wilkinsonesque” move where, like a second hand Jonny, the ball slid into the target zone.
The remaining 10 minutes of the first half saw Preston score ten unanswered points through some loose Stour play and a stray pass thrown away inside Stour’s 5 m line. The resulting panic gave PGH a penalty which, quickly taken, resulted in a try to Trippier. Davidson added the extras quickly followed by a penalty almost straight from the restart. For the 2nd time in the game, Stourbridge sent the kick off too deep and straight into touch. PGH then won a scrum penalty on the half way line and another from the resultant lineout. The half time whistle blew just as Davidson’s kick went over the cross bar and the game was poised for an interesting 2nd half at 29-17.
Once again, Stour conceded straight from the kick off and that man Davidson did not hesitate to take 3 points within a minute of play. The next quarter hour belonged to Stourbridge including some good breaks by Joe Heatley, Mark Harrison and Reece Beddows. This was punctuated by some almost comical handling that would not have looked out of place in Fred Karno’s Circus (one for the oldies). However, pressure finally paid off with Chris Scott keeping the scoreboard ticking over on 55 minutes with a simple penalty.
This was followed 8 minutes later after PGH had conceded numerous penalties under their own posts and the referee had no option but to award a penalty try. This put the visitors within one score at 32-27 but poor discipline let them down and Davidson hit his 6th successful kick of the day for a 35-27 lead.
From the restart, Stourbridge then won a penalty after PGH tackled high and the visitors opted for a lineout. Enter Chris Roddy who arrived back at Stour after a spell with Preston. Part of the contract stated that he was not to play in this fixture. However, with no promotion or relegation at stake and with injuries abounding, Stourbridge made an 11th hour plea for clemency! In a most sportsman like gesture, the hosts agreed that he could play. Back to the game and the lineout ball was secured followed by a catch and drive. Chris Roddy was on the end of it all and he charged over for Stour’s Bonus Point Try with Scott’s conversion leaving the score at 35-34.
The game then may have taken a further twist had Dan Rundle not been called back following the MacNeaney pass decision. Shortly after Preston were awarded a penalty but Davidson’s attempt fell wide. The ‘22’ drop out was not the most sensible of kicks and a little ‘grubber’ bounced awkwardly, was fumbled and gave possession back to the hosts. The Preston scrum remained firm and the ball was sent out to the right where waiting wingman Trueman crashed over in the corner. Once more, and to the relief of Stourbridge, Davidson was unable to enhance the score but Grasshoppers were guaranteed their 5 points whilst Stourbridge came away with two BP’s!
Next week is our last home game against Macclesfield who are already relegated from the league. They have nothing to lose apart from pride and are likely to come to Stourton Park with a positive attitude and keen to throw the ball around. Consequently, this should prove to be a highly entertaining fixture and we look forward to seeing as many home supporters as possible.
On the supporters’ front, it was great to see the level of support at Preston including Dad Scot, Brother Sam and Girlfriend Holly all in attendance to cheer on Alex Maxwell. Welcome too, goes to Reece Beddows’ entourage Rundle Senior and James “Otto” Otutaha who came over with his family after being rested for a Caldy concussion!