Gosford salvage bonus point at Stow
This week Chip's been on the bus to the delightful Cotswolds
The current fixture list has served up a plethora of double home fixtures, and the recent trip to Stow saw a double away fixture in the Cotswolds for GAB 1 & 2 versus their counterparts at Stow RFC.
Following a disappointing home defeat to Beaconsfield in the season opener, the All Blacks were determined to make amends and get a win on the board. Determination however, as per the prior week, was not matched with concentration as lax defence allowed the hosts to open the scoring with a converted try within 4 minutes (7-0). The try itself seemed to foretell the rest of the match, GAB pressurised the Stow scrum seemingly to breaking point, only for the home side to somehow secure quick ball and catch the visitors on the hop and cross the whitewash. A penalty soon followed to extend the lead (10-0).
The pattern was then set for a frustrating afternoon. Gosford dominant up front, in particular at scrum time, but unable to turn the pressure into points. Phase after phase was completed, with centres Rhys Hayward and Andy Schwarz going through a tremendous amount of work trying to create a focal point for attack. Harry Sutton made one of his trademark, rangy breaks but with no end product. Passes went down and ball was turned over all too frequently. As half-time approached, however, the pack’s efforts yielded just desserts as an epic scrum looked set for a pushover. The referee adjudged the visitors were illegally prevented from scoring and awarded a penalty try (10-7). Cue cheers from 14 of the Gosford side – Tim Ellis was a little miffed as the new rules now make a penalty try 7 points so he was unable to add to his points tally for the season…
The match was delicately poised as the sides turned round. Gosford were level on 55 minutes after a neat catch & drive forced a penalty which Tim Ellis converted with a little help from the post (10-10). Again the pattern was repeated, Gosford in the ascendancy for most of the second period, but unable to find the killer pass or keep going for that extra phase required to get over the line. On the hour mark, concentration lapsed as it had in the opening five minutes, and the rangy Stow second row found himself ball in hand with 50 yards of open field in front of him. He proceeded to gallop to the line like a precipitate giraffe, brushing aside the attentions of the despairing All Black defence. His try went unconverted, but Stow were back in the lead (15-10).
This should not have been too much of a setback for Gosford, given the possession they were able to rely on from a dominant pack. However, the rugby Gods are oft fickle, in particular showing short shrift to sides who lose concentration. Here’s what occurred in what turned out to be the pivotal moment of the match: Gosford put in a massive shove in the scrum, the ball pops out loose, it’s hacked ahead, general confusion ensues, the Stow centre dives over the line, cue groans from the travelling support and delight from the home fans (20-10). As the conversion again went wide, there remained a glimmer of hope for the visitors – just get back down the field, make the pressure count, the tries will come, surely?
In fact the pendulum then swung in favour of the home side who were now brimming with confidence and proceeded to camp on the Gosford line. Myles Selvey made a try saving tackle to give the All Blacks the possibility to get something out of the game. In the last play, number 8 Rory Gratwohl took a quick tap penalty, charging deep into Stow territory. Rhys Hayward was on hand to batter once more into the opponents, the ball was recycled back to Gratwohl, then on to skipper Ben Bodinham who fed winger Miles Johnson who raced 30 yards over to score under the posts. This was a well-taken try, with all the hallmarks of what’s been best about Gosford over the last few seasons. Despite Harry Sutton drop-kicking the conversion, it was too little too late as the referee blew his whistle for the end of the match.
Final Score Stow-on-the-Wold 20 – 17 Gosford All Blacks
Man of the match – Luke Burbidge, relentless effort and physical endeavour are his stock in trade, this week he was at the heart of Gosford’s strong forward performance
Chip’s penultimate thought(s):
The final try may have made defeat a little easier to swallow, but again GAB paid the price for not playing for the full 80 minutes. If the forwards can put in a shift like this one week after week, if everyone stays awake for the duration and if those final passes stick, a W is on the way.
The hosts may have been under the cosh and struggled with a misfiring lineout, however, their high tempo fast-handling approach kept Gosford guessing throughout and they took the chances offered to them. From the afternoon’s display, this youthful Stow side should be an impressive outfit in the coming seasons. We travelling alickadoos were well looked after by the Stow committee and look forward to receiving them later in the season.
Chip’s Hofmeister* moment:
The penalty try was a just reward for the endeavours of the front five, like a pack of angry bears throughout, they may seem a cuddly bunch but their strength and ferocity came to the fore.
*previously Chip’s Champagne moment, temporarily re-branded as a tribute to the big bears in the engine room