Bishop's Stortford 1st XV 20 Rosslyn Park 22
After a strong start, Stortford errors allow Rosslyn Park to gain confidence to go on and win a deserved victory.
Stortford started strongly and dominated the first 7 minutes in this game, sponsored by BIT Solutions, but came away with only three points from a George Cullen penalty after some stout Park defence. A pinpoint crosskick from the visitors' flyhalf, Harry Leonard quickly overturned the lead, as the stretched Stortford defence was breached out wide by quick hands, leading to an unconverted try to Benji Marfo. Within three minutes, the home lead was restored, though when a fortunate ricochet from a George Cullen grubber kick flew straight into Chris Smith's hands, allowing the winger to run round the last defender and touch down close enough to the posts to give Cullen a relatively easy conversion. Despite repeatedly turning the ball over, Stortford prevented the opposition from making any serious threats for the rest of the half but then two yellow cards for foul play at breakdowns in the last five minutes to Tom McCrone and Smith turned the game on its head. The situation was soon worsened with a late injury to Dec Caulfield, but the home side nevertheless held out until half time.
They had, though left themselves with a major challenge at the start of the second period and, sure enough, the visitors were quickly onto the attack and their slick backs, gaining confidence as they retained possession against only 13 defenders, progressively came into the game. Although, Stortford's stubborn defence held them out for 5 minutes, some clever interplay between winger, Marfo and fullback, Henry Robinson eventually produced a good try for the latter, converted from the touchline by Harry Leonard. Even after Stortford were restored to their full complement, Park maintained their momentum and they took full advantage of a poor clearance kick by the home side to switch play to the opposite wing, where centre, Andrew Henderson this time rounded off some more skilful backs play for an unconverted try. The home side now showed their mettle, fighting back to exert significant pressure on the Park defence and were rewarded some 9 minutes later with another Cullen penalty, after a second Chris Smith try was disallowed for a forward pass. This briefly boosted the home side and one of a number of excellent attacking kicks from Cullen put them into the Park 22. A great lineout steal capitalised on the position and the pack seized on the opportunity to go through a couple of quick driving phases to allow Steve Ball to touch down. Cullen's conversion took his team into a 5 point lead. This proved, though to be short-lived, as the visitors launched a sweeping attack through powerful forwards, with their dominant back row to the fore, gaining quick ball at a number of breakdowns, backed up by more good handling from their backs. This produced a penalty, which was kicked to touch and there was no stopping the driving maul from the resultant 5 metre lineout. Leonard couldn't convert and Stortford once again fought their way back into the game. Boosted by a yellow card to the visitors' loosehead prop for a scrummaging offence, the home side launched a final assault on the Park line with time running out and, showing impressive patience, they went through many phases before releasing the ball wide, where a 3 on 2 beckoned. Unfortunately, the backs couldn't produce the precision necessary to take the opportunity and finished with a desperate lunge for the line being snuffed out with a strong cover tackle, which ended the game.