Convert pressure into points
A glance at the score line suggests a totally one sided game
A glance at the score line suggests a totally one sided game. However, it was far from this and had Harbury been able to convert pressure into points then the result might have been a little different.
On a horrible wet surface that was cutting up badly both sides struggled at times and handling was not at its sharpest. Harbury took the game to their opponents and were only stopped by sound defence.
In the opening ten minutes it was very much a game of cat and mouse but it was the Stoke back line who worked well and quick ball enabled their outside centre to find space and cut through from within the visitors 22 and score beneath the posts to take a 7-nil lead.
Harbury responded well and Harbury enjoyed a positive spell of play that lead to a straightforward penalty that Ricky Alford converted to make it 7-3 after the first quarter. Stoke as befits their status at the top of the table quickly responded and another simple well worked move from their backline within the Harbury 22 again enabled them to find the gap for another converted try for a 14-7 lead.
Harbury then struck back hard and strong running in the forwards and quick ball along the backline took play across the field. A quick line out on the Stoke 10 metre line was used expertly by outside half Matt Morphett, he looked up and sent a high cross field kick which Alford ran onto and touched down wide out to make it 14-8 at the break.
The opening quarter of the second half saw Harbury putting the home line under pressure and an angled 30 metre penalty went narrowly wide. Harbury were awarded a series of penalties close to the Stoke line but the home defence was strong enough to repel the challenge – even though their line was crossed three times by the forwards. One sensed that a score during this period would have made the outcome much more difficult to predict.
However, the wheel of fortune swung Stoke’s way – a high kick into the Harbury 22 was well fielded and a mark was called. The referee, though, had picked up an offside player and awarded Stoke a penalty. This took the score to 17-8. They also capitalised on a poor pass from the base of well won Harbury scrum and added a third try wide out to take the score to 22-8.
Harbury responded well and a great run down the right wing saw Paul Evans touch down for a fine try… only for the touch judge to raise his flag rather belatedly for a foot in touch.
Stoke added a converted try on the 75th minute which gave them their bonus point. They then added gloss to their victory when from a penalty on the Harbury 22 their pack won good ball and the backs combined for the try of the match, which was then converted and no-side was called.
A rather harsh score line for an otherwise commendable effort from Harbury. Who showed that by sticking to their game plan and very much playing for each other that improvements can be made. Indeed had they played with this spirit and determination then they would have undoubtedly had positive results in the last two league outings.