Westcombe Park 23 Bishop's Stortford 1st XV 29
Excellent start and strong finish see Stortford win a very hard fought and tight game at Westcombe Park.
Stortford took an early three point lead, as Skipper, Tom Coleman kicked a penalty after 3 minutes, when the home side were penalised for a breakdown offence, following a great kick out of defence by centre, John Stocker. The visitors seemed then to take control, but it was 13 minutes before their superiority really told in the shape of a try for right winger, Wayne Child, who ran in from the 22, bursting through two tackles and fending off a 3rd defender. Coleman added a tremendous conversion from the touchline to take the lead to 10. Straight from the restart, Stortford were back on the attack, as prop, Richie McMillan broke straight through a ruck and found his back row in strong support. When the ball was shipped to the backs, they managed to work a narrow opening for left wing, Jimmy Rea, who was held up over the line by good, last ditch defending by Park. Play was called back, though for an offside offence by the home side earlier in the move and Coleman duly slotted the kick to take the score to 0-13. From this point, however, Park steadily worked their way back into the game and enjoyed much the better of the second quarter of the game showing great ball retention through phase after phase, including both backs and forwards. This resulted in a penalty goal after 30 minutes, which served only to strengthen the home team’s efforts. These were eventually rewarded after 36 minutes with a try, as their forwards forced their way over after a series of rucks and mauls close to Stortford’s line. The conversion attempt from out wide was missed, leaving the score at halftime at 8-13.
The home side started the second half in the same vein as they finished the first and it took a clever chip kick from Coleman on his own 22, fielded by Stocker and taken on to great effect by fullback, Sam Winter to take Stortford deep into opposition territory. The park defence proved solid, however and, not for the first time, forced a turnover at the breakdown. After 7 minutes, a good break by the home back row off an attacking scrum caught a Stortford defender offside, which was punished by a good kick at goal to narrow the margin to 2 points. It took only 2 minutes, though for Coleman to restore the visitors’ 5 point lead via another penalty, when Park were penalised for crossing, as they tried to run the ball from the restart. The home side, however, maintained the upper hand, running through many phases once again and established position in the Stortford 22. They managed to force a whole series of 5 metre scrums and only very determined defence by the visitors kept their line intact, including twice holding up the Park openside flanker over the line. Eventually, though, the pressure told, when after 20 minutes of the half their right wing touched down out wide, set free by his back row off yet another 5 metre scrum. The conversion was missed to leave the scores tied at 16-16. Stortford soon retook the lead, however, when Winter ran back a poor defensive kick by Park straight up the middle of the pitch, forcing a penalty for not releasing at the tackle, which Coleman duly converted. This was very shortly followed by the best move of the game, when Coleman initiated an excellent backs’ move with a short pass on his own 22 to Rea, stepping in off his wing to break right and make some 30 yards, before feeding centre, Jonno Child, who committed a defender before passing on to his brother, who made another 20 yards and passed inside to number 8, Mark McCraith to cross the line, giving his flyhalf a relatively easy conversion. This took the score after 26 minutes to 16-26. Stortford now clearly had the upper hand, as better scrummaging and improved ball retention denied the opposition ball and territory for several minutes. Park were undaunted, though and fought back, once again forcing Stortford back onto the defensive. Eventually, they were able to take advantage of an injury to Stortford’s fullback to find space out wide for their right wing to touch down after some skilful interplay by their backs, in which their left winger was prominent. An excellent conversion from the touchline proved to be the final score of the game, bringing the home side a deserved losing bonus point for the final 23-29 scoreline.
Yet again, the Stortford side stepped up the quality of their play from previous weeks against strong and determined opposition, who will surely win more games than they lose this season. There can be no relaxation though for next week’s home tussle against Staines.