“You look at the supporters' faces afterwards and you can see how much it means to them. We just love going out there and doing it for those guys. ”
A KICK at the death by flyhalf George Cullen saw Bishop’s Stortford edge out Blackheath in a thrilling 21-19 encounter on Saturday.
First XV flanker Dan Elsom sat down with the club’s Director of Rugby, Andy Long, to discuss the nail-biting victory.
DE: After a pretty disappointing first half, Stortford really turned things around in the second 40 minutes. What was the difference towards the end of the match?
AL: It was the way that we started the second half. We built a lot of momentum in those early exchanges - we kept the ball, picked up a few penalties, won collisions and found space, which put them on the back foot. We had our tails up and we managed to keep that pressure on throughout the whole of the second half. The early exchanges were key for us. The first few opportunities we were given to shift the momentum, we took them. The forwards were good and very physical, but we also managed to play with some good width.
DE: The team really managed pressure well towards the end of match, even when it seemed like a try would never come.
AL: We didn’t panic when the time was running out, and that has been one of our strengths this year. We have managed to use all of the time on the clock and we don’t panic. Sam Winter managed the game really well and helped to direct that drive at the end. It was really pleasing that we were able to shift the momentum and keep the pressure on, then not to concede points in the second half was quite an achievement.
DE: George Cullen ran the game very well from flyhalf on Saturday, particularly with his attacking kicks to pin Blackheath down in their half. What impact did that have on the game?
AL: He controlled the game really well. It would have been easy at times to try to run the ball from everywhere after so much pressure, but George kept probing corners and kicking us into a good position. He mixed his kicks up well, pushing them back and forcing them to run the ball back, and ultimately we made some really good defensive decision.
DE: His conversion at the end to win the match wasn’t the easiest of kicks either, but it didn’t seem to faze Cullen at all. Nerves could have easily got to any player in that position, especially considering what this win means to Bishop’s Stortford.
AL: George showed nerves of steel at the end to put the kick over. It just goes to show the amount of practise he puts in. But there are days when those kicks don’t go over, so we have to enjoy the days when they do.
You look at the supporters' faces afterwards and you can see how much it means to them. There were tears in the eyes of some of those guys, because we have come up against another iconic club and we are winning these fixtures. We just love going out there and doing it for those guys.
DE: Looking ahead to Esher this Saturday at Silver Leys. What will be their main threat?
AL: Esher have a decent set piece, they like to move the ball around a bit, and they are a reasonably well-organised side. Their team has been a bit interchangeable in terms of selection, which may be why they have a bit of a shaky start early on. But now they are coming off back-to-back wins, they will come to Silver Leys full of confidence with nothing to lose. The challenge for us is to play with our own confidence and belief in the knowledge we can go out there and get another win. We will do our homework on them. Their results have shown that they can be inconsistent, so we just need to find out what it is that pushes those buttons and put them under some pressure.
DE: The club is currently looking for planning permission to put stands beside the first team pitch at Silver Leys. Why have they chosen now to expand the spectator facilities?
Updated 17:18 - 7 Dec 2017 by Perry Oliver
AL: We have to keep looking at our facilities and the spectator experience we are providing for people coming up to watch on a Saturday, so the next stage for us is to get floodlights and seating. Being able to spread some of the noise and spectators around the pitch will have a positive impact on our atmosphere at Silver Leys. It’s exciting to see where we have come from to where we are now in the last five years, so hopefully the planning permission is successful and everyone sees the bigger picture. We want to be the ambassadors for the community game in the area, and we need to expand our facilities to be able to do that and accommodate more games and events for the area.