Stourbridge managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after leading for 78 minutes. They did manage a losing bonus point but this second home defeat means they drop a place in the table and allow “Sedge” to leapfrog into third place.
The game started well with the hosts playing with a slight wind advantage but Sedge had the first attacking chance from a very early lineout. However, Afe tidied up play from Full Back closely followed by Chad Thorne ripping the ball from a hapless ‘tiger’. Joe Heatley’s speculative kick found some space in the left corner and, with Dan Rundle in hot pursuit the defence was on the back foot. Cover was available but a defensive error saw the ball go loose and Rundle made no mistake with his 6th Try of the season.
The conversion attempt was too far out for Chris Scott’s boot but it found its target 7 minutes later after Stour’s dominance in the scrum earned them a penalty. However, Sedgley Park hit back straight from the restart when Stour gifted a penalty (not releasing) for Fly Half Stephen Collins to slot over. Sedgley P were taking every opportunity to run the ball back at their hosts and even inside their own ‘22’ they looked to both forwards and backs for hard running territorial gains. However, on the 20-minute mark, an attempted chip ahead was anticipated by Jack Lea and his charge down was rewarded as he had a few yards head start in the chase and was able to drop on the ball as it crossed the line. Reflation was not required before Chris Scott hit the conversion making the scoreboard tick over to show 15-3.
However, once again Sedge struck straight from the restart and their simple drop kick return was pawed backwards, by a Stour player, into a void of greenery. Alert to the error, the visitors regained possession and the ball was sent out left where speedster Jamie Harrison was on hand to score in the corner. Collins missed the conversion but the remainder of the half gave him ample opportunity to improve his tally as his team gained ground through some well-worked passages of play. His two successful penalties on 28 mins and 35 mins came courtesy of eminently avoidable errors by Stourbridge.
Stour squandered more chances including a penalty lineout but the throw in was judged as not straight. However, the first half finished with a Sedgley mistake when they knocked on their free kick but, at 15-14 were still very much in the game. Indeed, a Tigers error gave Stour a chance early in the 2nd half when their kick went straight into touch, on the full. Stour line out ball was well taken and the ball was recycled until it eventually found Nigel Mukarati. His well-timed run blasted a hole in the visitors’ defence after breaking one tackle and he blasted over the line to touch down under the posts. Chris Scott added the extra two points.
Once again, it took Sedgley Park but a few minutes to hit back and once again it was from a Stour error. Jack Lea had done well to lock down on a grounded player, winning a penalty for the hosts. However, confusion in the lineout then saw an overthrow, which Tigers pounce upon. No 8 Sam Peet made a decisive break out left and, for the second time in the match, winger Jamie Harrison was good enough to evade capture and score in the corner. Collins managed a tricky conversion bringing them to within a single point from Stour.
With 30 minutes left on the clock, there was everything to play for and both sides had their chances. The fresh legs of Mark George and Stef Thorp were enough in both tight and loose play to gain valuable territory and possession whilst Man of the Match, James Rodley was strong in both attack and defence. Some promising moves from Afe, Reece Beddows and Rundle were all thwarted. Scott’s penalty on the hour mark gave a small amount of breathing space but his miss, 10 minutes later left the score at 25-21 and Sedgley needing a single strike to attain success at Stourton.
Straight from the restart, they threw everything at Stourbridge and, for a while, the defence held strong. Pinned inside their own ‘22’ Stour were unable to fight back and a gap finally opened up for No 6 Mark Goodman to crash over from short range. Collins’ conversion saw the final score reach 25-28 but there was one final play remaining. Scott’s drop out was inch perfect and the chasing Stourbridge players were able to regain the ball. However, they were unable to make any inroads and ended back on the half way line. Unfortunately, the ball was knocked forward and Tigers hoofed the ball into touch and roared with victory as Parrott whistled and Stour squawked.
If Stour are to have any chance of a top two finish, they must rebuild “Fortress Stourton” and work on their strengths as a team rather than bicker about self inflicted errors that continue to nullify some fine passage of play! Many of the 325 strong crowd, as well as referee Dan Parrott, AR's Sergeant and Spencer, witnessed the squawking and squabbling that continued throughout much of the game. Stour also know, to their cost, that no amount of vocal mid match protestation (however humorous or factually correct) will alter on field action other than by creating a long term reputation that could be influential in officials' game management or how the opposition play.