Stourton Park Packed for Local Derby
By Mark Denison
A bumper crowd from both Clubs witnessed an exciting match
On Friday night, one of the biggest crowds of the season gathered from both Clubs and were treated to a very exciting game, as well as some excellent Pie & Mash!
The game started off at a frenetic pace, both teams willing to entertain the crowd with their ambition, resulting in some entertaining end-to-end rugby for the first 10 minutes. It was Old Hales who settled into a rhythm first, forcing the Lions back into their own 22 and for 5 minutes, it looked inevitable that they would score first. However, committed Lions' defending kept the visitors from crossing the line and eventually turned the attackers over at a ruck on the line. The ball was kicked clear and Elliot Hopkin chased the ball beyond the Old Hales chasing line, kicking the ball through before the covering tackle came in and George Tildesley dropped on to the ball as it crossed the line, scoring in the corner. The conversion was missed, but the score seemed to settle the Lions into their own rhythm and for the next 10 minutes, it was the Lions who dominated possession and territory. Again, it took some hardy defending by the visitors to prevent the Lions from scoring. After a number of penalty kicks for touch resulted in no further score, the Lions took the opportunity to convert a penalty in front of the posts with a successful kick by Tom Mitchell on 25 minutes.
The next 15 minutes returned to the end-to-end game, with neither team really threatening to score. On the stroke of half-time, Old Hales were reduced to 14 men when their Head Coach, Matt Williams received a yellow card (the second time this season in a game against the Lions) and the teams went into the break with an 8-0 lead to the Lions.
Old Hales returned to the pitch with great purpose and despite being down a player, stunned the Lions with two quick-fire tries, putting them 8-14 in the lead. Matt Williams returned to the pitch and the game fell back to a story of two strong defences quashing any attack, neither team looking like crossing the line. It was Old Hales who broke the deadlock with a well taken penalty in front of the posts taking them 9 points clear and making it imperative that the Lions scored next.
With 10 minutes to go, the Lions pinned their close neighbours in their own 22, with wave-upon-wave of attacks and penalty kicks for the corner, but the defence stood firm, even when reduced to 14 again when old Stour favourite, Tom Jarvis took the yellow card for his new team being persistently offside.
With just seconds to go and no sign of the Lions being able to breach the defence, the decision was made to kick for points after yet another penalty. A wise decision as this was the final kick of the game and gave the Lions a valuable losing bonus point.
The game was played with great heart by both teams and was mostly a good advert for local rugby.
Match report by Mark Denison