A hard fought, evenly balanced match culminating in a valuable win for Stratford, with as dramatic a finale as seen in many seasons. With a strong breeze Camp Hill kicked off, the ball being taken by flanker Marko Mladenovic and worked back. The home side used the breeze, but a long penalty was wide and a long clearance went dead. Stratford prospered keeping the ball in hand, and a run by fly half and captain Simon Brain and full back Rich Pepperell led to a Black and White driving maul that was stopped just short of the line. A hack through by Brain was just cleared. Lock Ali Mather
initiated the next attack by taking a Camp Hill line out. The Stratford pack coped well with their heavyweight opponents, with hard work from the front five of Simon Baldwyn
, Mark Hibberd
, Geoff Dyson
, Mather and Tom Mylott
, and the back row of Mladenovic, Ed Walton
and Dave Pritchard being prominent in the tight and loose.
Camp Hill took the lead with a penalty, but scrum half Drew Pritchard replied a few minutes later. Stratford were now forced on the defensive, but tackling throughout the team was excellent. However a charged down kick and a fortuitous bounce led to the home fly half scoring between the posts, the try being duly converted. Centres Chris Cathcart
and Sam Joyce
were linking well and a strong run by Joyce was stopped by tacklers who failed to release, leading to another successful penalty by Drew Pritchard. Cathcart made a try saving tackle in the next Camp Hill attack. Stratford's old failing of kicking too much possession away now reasserted itself, and the half ended at 10-6.
Jake White replaced the injured Cathcart, and almost immediately was just wide with a penalty from half way. Kicking by the back line was wayward at times leading to Camp Hill counter attacks and periods of desperate defence by Stratford. Back on the attack, White reduced the deficit with a further penalty, while a long home penalty attempt was short. Rob Young
replaced the injured Walton. Camp Hill now looked at their most dangerous, with ten minutes of sustained pressure and numerous five metre scrums, from one of which a
try was scored, the conversion attempt rebounding from a post. 15-9.
In turn Stratford had fifteen minutes of domination. Matt Cook
replaced Dyson in the front row. A Stratford penalty was just short. Wingers Dan Whitby
and Callum Cook
both went close, and Young, Baldwyn, Matt Cook
and brothers Drew and Dave Pritchard were all almost over the line after a series of forward drives, a five metre scrum and further drives. Stratford were hampered by giving away too much possession and a series of unforced errors. With no side looming, Joyce initiated a final attack with a determined break through the middle; a Stratford player was prevented from scoring by an illegal tackle attempt, both high and without use of the arms, and Camp Hill hung on to the ball preventing a quick tap penalty, which would probably have led to a try. The net result was a penalty try and a score of 15-14. White added the conversion, followed immediately by the final whistle, and jubilant Stratford players and supporters.
This was an excellent team performance. More of the same will be needed on Saturday in the final league match of the season, against high flying Lichfield at home, K.O. 3pm. The match will be preceded by a Ladies' Day lunch at 1 pm, gentlemen also being welcome. For details and booking contact Jo Littler.