Stanford expected an aggressive game and were not disappointed, despite being bottom of the league Steelers game to the rec intent on winning.
After only 9 minutes Steelers found themselves for the first time in the Stanford half and awarded a penalty more or less directly in front. How the points were not converted is a mystery as the ball was kick straight across the front of the posts.
Knowing that they had to come hard and fast Stanford started with intent and pushed Steelers back into the own half. It was clear that Steeler’s tactic was to hit close and direct but Stanford were a match, not allowing Steelers to gain ground.
On 15 minutes of play Steelers had a line out, Matthew Rumble rose above the Steeler’s jumpers to take the ball with ease. The Pack then set a rolling maul which trundled up the pitch 20 metres which was only stopped when it was pulled down. Once on the floor Stanford were deemed to have knocked on. Not happy with the decision the Stanford Pack rallied and gave a strong powerful platform for Kevin Foley to strike against the head. After a quick interchange of passes, Gary Burke was driven over the last few yards, only to be declared as being held up by the Steeler’s defence. The following 5 metre scrum saw the Stanford Pack control the play and scrum half Calum Reid darted across the line to bring the first points of the day. Reid added the extra two points just on 17 minutes of play.
Stanford started to put some great play moves together with the Pack being rock steady and Reid feeding Michael Kite at Fly with quick ball. Kite had been drafted in at the very last minute when Jared Gouden had aggravated a hand injury. Despite his late inclusion Kite was to prove that the youth of Stanford have a mature and cool head as he was pivotal to every play that saw Stanford go forward.
As 23 minutes of play ticked over one such play saw Aaron Payne come crashing in from a change of angle stepped outside hand off two Steelers players and cross the try line for Stanford’s 2 try but his first try for Stanford, Reid was accurate once again.
Stanford now made a double change with Aaron Kempster changing with Eddie Ryan at tight head and Danny Jackson who had carried more ball than anyone else, making masses of hard yards, for youth player Mark O’Connell.
For the last 10 minutes of the first half Stanford made life hard for themselves and allowed Steelers to play, and when they did they certainly didn’t look like a side that was propping up the bottom of the league. With 5 minutes left Steelers crossed the Stanford line but couldn’t convert.
Steelers frustrations were starting to show and their discipline was starting to fray with voices starting to be heard especially in the centre.
From the start of the second half Steelers knocked on giving a scrum to Stanford in front of the posts. Once again the Stanford Pack was solid, allowing Liam Morley to pick at the base of the scrum, feeding to Reid who stepped one player to go in under the posts and again converted his own try.
After the restart Steelers gained an early line out, however O’Connell stole the ball setting Stanford off once again. Not done with his line out steal O’Connell went looking for more ball. He found himself on the end of a quick phase of passing, once in hand he set off at blistering pace and was almost to the Steelers line when he was brought down just short. Sadly the tackle finished O’Connell’s involvement in the game bringing Jackson back into the affray.
Despite Stanford’s pressure their own finishing let them down far too often and some magical plays ended in forward passes or knock on’s.
Keeping the Pack fresh Ryan who had been extremely strong in the front row gave way for Kempster to play the last 20 minutes of the game. From the next scrum awarded to Steelers, Stanford drove over the ball allowing Morley to pick up from the back of the won scrum once again. Palming off the Steeler’s flanker he off loaded to Payne who ran in his second try of the game and Stanford’s 4th try earning a bonus point.
Steeler’s centre’s discipline now seemed to boil over and he started to complain about every play and was warned by the ref to calm down. Only minutes later an off the ball altercation saw the centre walk from the field of play when he felt he could take the law into his own control. This marred what had been a very good performance by the Steelers team who had played some hard and good rugby.
Down to 14 men for the remained of the game Steelers where trying hard but were always on the back foot. Despite being down a man Steelers gave a really gutsy defence and it was on the last stroke of play that Nick Sharp was passed the ball on the wing, with one quick step inside he went over for his first senior league try, closing the game out for a home victory 31 – 5.
Pleased with a win and bonus point Stanford knew that the win wasn’t pretty but was a true team performance. The extra point and other league results going their way meant that the win saw Stanford climb from 6th to 5th in the league. Now with a two week rest Stanford have a few hard weeks of training before their final run towards the end of the season, playing three of the top four sides in the league, starting with local neighbours and in form Pegasus, visiting the rec on Saturday 9th March.