Burton make it to the Play-off – the hard way
Burton recovered from a poor start and then survived a late onslaught from Stratford to secure a promotion Play-off.
With a strong wind at their backs, Burton kicked off, pressurised Stratford and pinned them back. Daryl Banton fielded a poor clearance kick and counter-attacked however the first collision left him hobbling for the rest of the game. Loz Betty asked questions in the centre before the ball was lost and Stratford moved up the field. A powerful drive from the home side resulted in a penalty which was taken quickly and resulted in a try. Fortunately for Burton the kicker missed the conversion and many other kicks.
As Burton pressed forward with the next attack a stray pass was reacted to first by Stratford and they streaked clear for a second try after only six minutes. The simplest of conversions was missed, however 10-0 looked ominous for Burton.
Five minutes later Will Roach, in for flu victim Will Brooks, made ground in the Stratford half and Tom Murphy was on hand to crash over for a try. Banton converted. Stratford then put Burton under considerable pressure. Eventually Burton counter-rucked on their twenty-two and Tom Harris stormed forty metres up-field. The ball was re-cycled and smartly moved out to Left Wing Dewi Williams who touched down. Banton’s conversion gave Burton the lead. The game ebbed and flowed for a period with both sides giving away penalties.
The next score for Burton came after a line-out steal from Josh Cartwright. Liam Hucknall made thirty metres before Sam Benjamin came off his wing and took the ball forward. Despite a tap-tackle, Benjamin was adjudged to have grounded the ball and Banton added the conversion to the score-card.
Stratford then camped in the Burton half in a frantic spell of play. Following repeated offences by the visitors Simon Bradley was given a Yellow Card. Craig Dutton came on to Prop, requiring Jono Parkinson to leave the field. Stratford took the Scrum but broke off quickly and Burton held up the ball. From the next scrum under the posts Banton did incredibly well to earn Burton a drop-out, which the Referee turned in to a penalty for dissent. Harry Titley and Benjamin combined to take the ball into the Stratford twenty two, before the move broke down and half time was blown.
Williams made a try saving tackle to thwart Stratford in their first attack of the half, however Burton lost a scrum against and the try came with Burton still a man down. Another conversion was was missed.
Joe Gazzard replaced Cartwright and in the next phase of play, James Burroughs made a strong carry before finding Hucknall in support. Hucknall raced to the twenty two but was felled by a tap-tackle which forced him to leave the field to be replaced by Roach. Burton maintained the field position and shortly afterwards Ian Gilmour took a quick penalty, was supported by Parkinson who set up a ruck from which Roach crossed to score. Banton converted to give Burton a 28-15 lead.
Gazzard caught the kick-off and rumbled twenty metres forward. Harris and Roach took the ball forward as Burton looked in command. The ball was held up over the line, however Burton took the scrum against the head and spun the ball out quickly. For the second time in the game Stratford benefitted from a stray pass and raced clear to score. Burton then lost a line-out and conceded a penalty on the twenty-two. The home side kicked for the corner and a well worked drive brought a try which and their first conversion of the day. The nerves were now showing in the play of Burton and old-head Dutton was brought on to steady the ship. From penalties Burton kicked to the corner twice and from the second line-out Gazzard slipped the ball to Dutton who went over in the corner. Banton superbly countered the wind and the angle to make the kick.
Stratford repeated their catch and drive for a try. Again the conversion was missed, however Burton had upset the Referee with complaints and Stratford re-started with a penalty. Dutton turned over at the next play and Banton’s trusty boot made touch to close the game out.
This 35-32 win sees Burton now needing a win at Barker’s Butts next week to secure a home play-off. Their opponents will be Derby who finished runners-up in Midlands One East.
By Ian Cartwright