Shipston advanced to the next round of the RFU Senior Vase with a comprehensive victory over Old Saltleians at Mayo Road on Saturday. The visitors were having a decent season - placed third in their division - and arrived with a big set of forwards looking to get their 6th win of the season. The Rams were on a good run of their own, having won their previous 4 games and racked up a number of points over the last few weeks, so they were confident of a result leading into the match.
There were yet more changes for Shipston, as Rob James moved to scrum half and Leo Brice came back into the second row. There was a also a first call up of the season for Karl Slatter, who came onto the bench to cover the back line in what was a strong looking squad despite a number of injuries and unavailability.
The Rams began down the slope and quickly got into their stride, playing with good pace and intensity to catch their opposition off guard and get deep into their half. It wasn't long before the first try was on the board. With the ball won at a lineout, Rob James span it left to the backs, where some slick hands saw a gap open up for Tobi Faulkner. He arced a brilliant run around his man and stepped inside the covering fullback to touch own for the first score of the afternoon. James was successful with the conversion to make it 7-0 to the hosts.
A penalty for Shipston stretched their lead out to 10 points, before another well worked try was finished off, this time by matt Daniells. Having run a number of phases up towards the halfway line, Robbie Faulkner spotted some space behind the defence and chipped the ball out wide. Daniells was quick to react and latched on to the cross-field kick, gathering in front of the Salts fullback and racing clear under the posts for Shipston's second try of the match. James was again successful with the conversion to give the Rams a 17-0 lead.
That was how the score remained until half time. Despite Shipston's dominance with the ball in hand, they gave away a succession of penalties (mostly for high tackles and being offside at the breakdown) which allowed Old Salts some territory and released the pressure on their defence. The referee soon became tired of the repeated infringements and gave Harry Clark 10 minutes on the naughty step for another high tackle.
In the second half Shipston improved their discipline and were rewarded with much more possession and field position than they had experienced in the first period. The bigger Old Salts pack was enjoying a bit of success at the scrum, making it difficult for the Rams to get much joy from there, but they had control over all other aspects of the game. The third try was soon in the offing, coming from another clever kick into space from Faulkner. Some direct running from the likes of Charlie Hollies-Everett and Scott Brandreth had sucked in the Salts defence, allowing Faulkner to dink another little chip over the top for substitute, Leon Daniels to latch onto brilliantly and touch down - 22-0 to the hosts.
This score seemed to break the resolve of the visitors and the Rams took full advantage, scoring a couple of tries in quick succession. Tobi Faulkner bagged his second of the match, intercepting a wide pass from the Salt' fly-half and sprinting clear from 50 metres out to score. Shipston's fifth try was possibly their best of the match and it followed a lovely move in the middle of the park. The ball was won from a scrum and sent wide to the right by replacement scrum-half, Karl Slatter. A well timed wrap-around move involving Tom Corby and Rob James set James through a gap and off up the field towards the Salts twenty-two metre line. He then linked brilliantly with Daniels and Faulkner, before a final offload back inside to Harry Clark saw him trudge over the line to finish off a clinical move and push the score out to 34-0.
The Rams were playing with confidence and throwing the ball around well, but it was the defensive efforts that were perhaps the most pleasing. In general, the line speed and re-alignment at the breakdown were very good and it allowed Old Salts little space to create anything of any note of their own. This pressure brought about a number of turnovers and space for Shipston to play into and a sixth try of the game came about because of this. After a turnover in the middle of the park the Rams played some tight phases towards the Salts line, before a call from Ed Cowper at fullback, recognising space behind the Salts defensive line, meant another chip over the top for him to chase. He was just about to pick the ball up and scamper over the line but one of the Old Salts props hauled him to the ground without the ball, leaving the referee with little choice but to award a penalty try and give the Rams a 41-0 lead.
This is how the score should've remained, but a poor lack in concentration from the home side in defence gifted Salts a consolation try. In fairness to Salts, it was no more than their endeavour and hard work warranted, but it was disappointing from a Shipston perspective not to hold the visitors to nil in what was an impressive display all round. The final score ending up 41-7 to Shipston.
There were a host of standout performances this week, with Charlie Hollies-Everett, Leo Brice and Jack Wyatt doing a lot of the hard yards up front and carrying with real strength all afternoon. Both Faulkners had very impressive games and the back line as a whole all performed very well on the day. The MOTM this week however will go to George Wilcock. He was absolutely outstanding all afternoon, constantly in the Salts faces in defence and carrying and linking well with the back line when the Rams had the ball. It was a very good display of how to play back row.
It is back to league action for Shipston this week, as they welcome Alcester to Mayo Road, kick off at 2.15pm.