Shipston suffered another agonising exit in the RFU Senior Vase as Daventry were awarded the win, with the scores at 40-40 after extra time, by virtue of being the away side - a carbon copy of what happened to the Rams 12 months previous, at the same stage in the competition. It was a tremendous blow for the hosts who had held the lead with only 2 minutes on the clock in added time, only to concede a penalty try with almost the last play of the game from a scrum!
The match had started very brightly for Shipston and they soon found themselves two scores up, playing down the slope in the first period, as they moved the ball quickly from the break down and ran the much bigger Daventry forwards around the park. Tries for Tobi Faulkner and Harry Clark sent the home side into a 12-0 lead with 15 minutes gone and things were looking positive for the Rams. Daventry were soon able to gain some momentum though and dragged themselves back into the match. Shipston began to give away far too many penalties at the ruck and this allowed the visitors to kick for field position and use their tremendous size and weight advantage up front to get into scoring positions.
Shipston were able to hold firm for most of the half, defending resolutely and bravely, but Daventry's possession and territory was rewarded with a push-over score from the final play of the half, restricting the hosts lead to 12-5 at the break.
The second half followed much the same pattern that the end of the first period had produced, Daventry shoving the ball up their jumpers and slowly working their way downfield inch by inch through their pick and go work around the fringes of the ruck - not pretty but certainly playing to their strengths and you cannot fault them for that. The frustration of not being allowed any possession was beginning to tell on the Shipston players and more and more penalties were conceded as the hosts attempted to disrupt the ruck and wrestle back the ball.
The mounting infringements played further into Daventry hands and they edged ahead on the scoreboard through a further three tries in the half, taking them to a 26-12 lead with 15 minutes left on the clock. Queue the Shipston fight back!
The Rams knew that they needed to get their hands on the ball and play some rugby and to the large crowds delight, they were able to do so. Every time they had the ball they looked devastating, cutting the Daventry defence to ribbons and making ground at every opportunity. The visitors couldn't live with the tempo of the Shipston play and found themselves on the back foot at the Rams threw the kitchen sink at them. Their dominance in the final 10 minutes was rewarded with a brace of tries, through Matt Daniells and Tom Corby, both converted by the reliable Rob James to level the scores up at 26-26.
There then began a period of utter confusion for everyone on the touchline, as Shipston were told by the referee that they were in fact winning 26-24 and proceeded to kick the ball out of touch in the final play to claim the victory. The final whistle blew and the teams shook hands with the result seemingly being accepted by both parties. Both teams had actually gone through the tunnel and started making their way into the changing rooms as the referee re-counted, on the advice of the touch judge, and then decided that the scores were level and that extra time was needed. It was completely the right call, as the scores certainly were level at 26 apiece, but a farcical situation to be involved in all the same.
So on to extra-time it went and the bruising encounter continued with 10 minutes each way to be played to try and decide the outcome of this enthralling fixture. The Rams were clearly not fully concentrating after the debacle at the "final whistle" as a knock-on straight from the restart and some poor defending gave Daventry the lead once again at 26-33, a lead they would hold until half time of extra-time.
The second period of the added time was monumental. Both sides gave absolutely everything despite the weariness in their legs and the game developed into a real dogfight. Shipston found another gear yet again and began to see more of the ball as they attempted to overturn the deficit and book a place in the next round. The pace and accuracy from the backline at such a late stage of the match was very impressive and they fought their way into the lead. A try levelled the scores with 7 minutes left on the clock before a second score for Harry Clark edged the Rams into the lead. Following a brilliant arcing run from Rob James, the ball was popped quickly between the hands, Ed Cowper, Tom Corby and Tobi Faulkner all involved, before a final pop inside saw the ball reach Clark and he raced away under the posts to the sound of roaring cheer from the touchline. The successful conversion meant that the Rams led 40-33 with only 4 minutes of extra time left to play.
The restart was not gathered properly by Shipston and Daventry regained possession and were awarded a penalty inside the Rams half. They kicked to the corner and opted for a lineout to try and push their way over the line. The lineout was disrupted but a scrum for the visitors was awarded, an area on the game they had enjoyed success in all afternoon. After a couple of resets for the front row not setting square, the third scrum collapsed and the referee ran over to the posts to award Daventry a controversial penalty try and level the scores at 40-40!
The kick off was the final play of the match and Shipston needed to regain possession in order to try and get the points they required to progress. They did manage to regather the ball and were awarded a penalty 45 metres out from the posts. The decision was made to go for the posts and up stepped Rob James, who had kicked quite superbly all match, knowing that it needed to go over in order for the Rams to reach the semi-finals. It was a difficult kick in the swirling wind and a long way out and so it proved to be, as the ball fell agonisingly wide of the posts and Daventry dotted the ball down to bring the match to a close. As the number of tries was level on count back, the away side are awarded the victory under these circumstances and so it was another bitter pill for Shipston to swallow, who now have the unenviable record of not having lost in the RFU Senior Vase for more than 2 seasons, yet have gone out at the quarter final stage for the past 2 years!
It was a bitterly disappointing way for the cup run to finish, but the Rams can be immensely proud of the way they fought for the full 100 minutes, roared on by a fantastic crowd. All involved on the day were a credit to the club.
The MOTM will be awarded to the whole squad this week as to a man, they all stepped up and performed valiantly, defending for their lives and attacking with real pace and craft throughout. It hurt when the final whistle blew and I'm sure for many it still hurts now. But the effort and fight that was shown by all will stand the squad in great stead going forward as they can now narrow their focus onto the league campaign.
Congratulations must go to Daventry for doing enough to progress to the semi-final and we wish them well in the next stages of the competition going forward.
Shipston are back in league action next week (1st Dec) as they welcome Coventry Welsh RFC to Mayo Road, kick off at 2.15pm