Stratford are finding it very hard work this season in the League - Saturday’s match against second placed Bourneville was no exception and went true to form. In four successive fixtures Stratford have now played the top four placed teams in the League, and lost each time.
Bourneville took their chances when it mattered, and only in the first half did they look threatened. The harsh truth is that they showed why they are challenging for top position – and why Stratford are not. Stratford’s only ray of hope was their secure lineout, especially the safe hands of Tom Mylott
, who did a sterling job in disrupting Bourneville, and for much of the match this looked like Stratford’s only scoring option. The solitary Stratford try, late in the first half, came directly from a perfectly timed and concerted lineout drive when a kickable penalty was instead put into touch on the Bourneville five metre line. Mylott duly caught Mark Hibberd
’s accurate throw, and then all eight in the scrum drove forward together, urged on by scrum half Drew Pritchard. Flanker Ant Avery duly scored the try when the drive reached the line.
This was to prove Stratford’s only success. Bourneville successfully soaked up pressure, biding their time for the inevitable mistake, and then they pounced. There were no soft centres in their selection and time and again they made deep inroads into Stratford’s defence. At regular intervals the walls were breached, despite some heroic defending – three converted tries and three penalties made up Bourneville’s total.
Despite looking good and matching Bourneville in many phases of the game, out wide Stratford rarely had the pace or penetration to get behind Bourneville’s very solid defence. The exception was Stratford’s man of the match, speedy full back Joe Cook. On several occasions he fielded long range kicks, running the ball straight back, finding openings and space where none seemed to exist. Twice he came within inches of Bourneville’s line before being brought down – he provided wingers Mat Allen and Dan Whitby
with their best openings of the day. It was however to no avail, and elsewhere Stratford struggled throughout to keep on the front foot.
For the final ten minutes of the match Bourneville pressed urgently, frantically attempting to score a fourth and bonus-point try, but Stratford thwarted every thrust – with better luck they might have scored themselves.
Stratford’s next League matches, which have now become “must win”, are against more lowly placed teams. Bedworth on 3rd December, and home against Camp Hill the following Saturday could well determine the outcome of Stratford’s season.