Shipston earned a first victory of the season when they traveled away to a strong, well-drilled Ledbury side, playing some excellent rugby in fantastic conditions. Playing down the slight slope in the first half, the Rams wanted to get off to a good start, but they found themselves on the back foot for the first 10 minutes of the match. Too many errors and ill-discipline at the break down allowed Ledbury to build an early 6-0 lead, as their fly half made the most of a couple of early penalty kicks at goal. It wasn't until the 12 minute that Shipston found their stride and they put together some excellent phases of running rugby. They were forced to play 10 minutes down to 14 men, as Tarek Laktaf was again sent to the sin bin for a late hit on the Ledbury fly half. This didn't deter Shipston and they stuck to their task brilliantly, winning the battle of the break down and forcing the Ledbury pack to work hard around the field. They advanced up to the Ledbury twenty-two and quickly spun the ball left to create an overlap. Matt Corby made the most of the gaps in the defence to make a break and Toby Jones was quick to support, receiving the final pass to canter over the line for the first try of the game. Sam Cooper made no mistake, adding the extras to move Shipston into the lead at 7-6.
There then followed a period of stalemate between the 2 sides, as Shipston were unable to make the last telling pass and get onto the scoreboard for a second time. The slight inaccuracy ended up costing them, as Ledbury made the most of having an extra man on the park and attacked the blind side off a scrum on the half way line. The scrum half fed the ball out wide to the Ledbury winger in space and he brushed off the covering tackle to charge over the line and get the home sides' first try of the game. The conversion was made to take Ledbury 13-7 in front.
Now back up to the full compliment of players, Shipston once again piled on the pressure and forced Ledbury deep into their own half once again. The forwards in particular were making some barnstorming runs down the park, with some strong carries from the likes of George Waywell, Tarek Laktaf and the Barnard brothers. After a sustained period of pressure, the Rams were awarded a penalty 5 metres from the Ledbury try line after the defence was adjudged to be offside. Some quick thinking by George Waywell saw a quick tap and he forced his way through a couple of would-be tacklers to touch down for Shipston's second try of the game. Again Sam Cooper converted to take the score to 14-13 at half time.
The second half showed a very mature performance from the young Shipston side, as they used the slight tailwind to dictate the game and play in the areas that they wanted to play in. Some clever work from the back line took Shipston deep into the Ledbury half once again and the resulting pressure amounted to Shipston being awarded a penalty in front of goal. Sam Cooper slotted home the kick to open up the Rams' lead to 17-13. Shipston were really beginning to take control of the match and dictated the play for much of the second half, but made the job a lot harder for themselves as they were forced to play the final 15 minutes of the match with just 14 men! Tarek Laktaf was awarded a second yellow card for tackling the opposition player without the ball, so was given his marching orders by the referee to watch the rest of the game from the sideline.
The forwards, now down a man for the rest of the game, needed to step up and up the work rate and that is exactly what they did! The pack worked tirelessly round the park not allowing Ledbury to capitalize on their man advantage. With 10 minutes to go however they conceded a penalty for not rolling away at the ruck and the successful kick meant that the Rams now held the slenderest of leads going into the final 8 minutes of the match (17-16).
Shipston defended for their lives and made a number of covering tackles to thwart the overlaps created by Ledbury's extra man. The Rams managed to kick the ball deep and send the home side back into their own half on numerous occasions, showing great game management int he heat of battle. Ledbury did however make a break from their own twenty-two, cheered on from the partisan home crowd. They advanced up towards the half way line with some excellent off-loading and support and were beginning to look dangerous. Shipston managed to gain a vital interception, as Matt Corby gratefully accepted an off-load from his opposite number. He managed to wriggle free of a tackler and got the pass away to Toby Jones, who raced clear of the covering defence and scored his second (and Shipston's third) try of the afternoon. The conversion was missed but the Rams held a vital 6 point lead going into the remaining exchanges of the match. Again the ball was kicked long by Shipston after they received the kick off and they piled the pressure onto Ledbury with some solid defence. This pressure soon paid off, as the Rams were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts in the dying embers of the game. Sam Cooper kicked the penalty witht he last touch of the game to give Shipston a well-deserved victory, with the final score 25-16.
It was a monumental effort from all involved, with some excellent work out wide by the likes of Jack McMullen and James Organ backing up the effort and grunt from the forwards. The MOM is a difficult decision this week, with Toby Jones, Tom Corby and the majority of the pack all in contention, but I will award it to Sam Cooper. He had a brilliant game at scrum half, controlling the pace of the play extremely well and his distribution throughout was superb. Not to mention his valuable effort from the kicking tee all afternoon.