Shipston showed plenty of promise and determination in their first game of the new campaign but were ultimately left to wonder what might have been, as Evesham took the spoils in a fiercely contested game.
With a large and expectant crowd at Mayo Road, The Rams were desperate to get their season off to a flying start having shown much improvement from last year in the pre-season fixtures that preceded. Playing down the slope in the first period, Shipston tried to start with a high tempo and were quickly out of the blocks in defence, making some big hits over the gain line and forcing Evesham to try and go wide. The Rams eagerness caused them to infringe at the break down and they soon found themselves 6-0 down, Evesham being gifted 2 shots at goal in front of the posts to take an early lead. This seemed to kick Shipston into gear and they were soon in the opposition twenty-two. However the task was soon to get greater, as new boy Tarek Laktaf was forced to take a 10 minute rest on the naughty step after a scuffle broke 10 metres from Evesham's try-line. This didn't deter the home side and in fact, only seemed to galvanise them further, as they put in a series of excellent phases and began playing the best rugby of the match. It was duly rewarded when the ball was spun wide to the right after a number of quick phases from the home side, with Tommy Barry sauntering over the line after a decent break from Toby Jones. Sam Cooper was unable to add the extras, so Shipston trailed 6-5.
The confidence that this gave the home side was evident and they began to really have a go at Evesham, the forwards in particular linking up very well and off-loading out of the tackle to gain valuable yards! Try as they might, they were unable to get another score before the break, so the sides went into half time with Evesham holding a slender 1 point lead with the score at 6-5.
Catastrophe struck straight from the kick off for the Rams, as Evesham turned the ball over from the re-start and threw the ball out wide to their right winger. He skipped past a couple of would-be tacklers and made his way to the try-line, only to be hauled up just short of the line. They recycled the ball quickly and spun it out to the opposite wing who went diving over in the left corner to score the visitors first try. The score as not converted and Shipston now trailed 11-5. Still in a state of shock after such a poor start, the Rams found themselves defending their own line for the next 5 minutes, as Evesham pressed hard for a second try. After the visitors got a nudge on at a scrum, the Shipston pack disintegrated and the referee marched under the posts to award Evesham a penalty try. From straight under the posts the try was converted, and Shipston now found themselves 18-5 down.
To their credit the Rams met the challenge head on and again started to get more of a foothold in the match. Evesham were reduced to 13 men after a spell of poor discipline saw 2 of their forwards sent to the sin bin, so Shipston took advantage and piled on the pressure. Sam Cooper slotted home 2 penalty kicks to take the scores to 18-11 and get the Rams back to within a single converted try, but Shipston could never quite find the finishing touch that they required. It would eventually be Evesham who would score the final points of the game, as their fly-half kicked a monster penalty from the half way line as Shipston were penalised in their efforts to score the vital equalizing try. Final score, 21-11 to Evesham.
A somewhat disappointing end to the game for Shipston, but there were plenty of encouraging signs for them to take into the rest of the season. they were hugely competitive against a team that were challenging for the top last season and as this year progresses, it's only going to get better for this young Rams side. A big thank you must go to everybody who turned out to support (from both sides) and a huge effort in the bar afterwards, it was great to see!