Shipston remain unbeaten away from home after securing their fourth win on the trot away at Old Wheatleyans on Saturday, scoring an impressive eight tries in the process. With a number of injuries to the forwards, a new look Shipston pack took to the field, but they were dogged and determined all afternoon, pushing a heavier Old Wheats pack around the park and doing some excellent work in defence around the fringes.
Without having much of the ball at all in the first period, the Rams found themselves coming out on top in a scrappy affair, with neither side able to put together any phases of note. After conceding the first points of the game from a penalty kick at goal, Shipston bounced back almost immediately from an attacking scrum in the Wheats' twenty-two. After clean ball was won, the ball was shipped to the centres where Robbie Faulkner burst through the tackle to touch down for the first of his three tries in the match. The conversion was added (one of six for Faulkner in the game) to take the score out to 7-3. That soon became 12-3 to the Rams, after a quick drop-out from their own twenty-two caught the home sides defence napping. Jack McMullen forced the ball loose in a tackle and Tobi Faulkner was able to pounce and dive on the ball for the second try of the afternoon. The conversion from out wide was missed, a rare occurrence for the afternoon in which seven attempts from eight were successful.
The Faulkner show continued throughout the first half, with Robbie scoring his second and third tries of the afternoon before the break. Old Wheats lost the ball forward whilst attacking deep in the Shipston half and Faulkner gathered and ran the length of the pitch to touch down. His third and Shipston's final try of the half came from another attacking scrum on the Wheats' twenty-two. The ball was spun wide to Tom Corby, who made a crashing run and break through the defence before off-loading to Robbie in support to dot down. Old Wheats were kept alive through some ill-discipline from the Rams, taking full advantage to slot home 4 penalty kicks, meaning that the scores at half time were 26-12 to Shipston. There wasn't much in terms of attacking flair from the Rams in the first period, but the work rate, particularly in defence, was very pleasing. Matt Elliott - stepping in as a late replacement for Ben Haines - and George Minogue were outstanding on the fringes, cutting down big runners all afternoon.
In the second half, Shipston seemed a bit more relaxed and finally started to show their ability with ball in hand. They upped the tempo of the game and put some wonderful phases of attacking rugby together to carve open the Old Wheats defence almost at will. After sustained pressure in the opposition half, Shipston began to stretch Wheats across the park, spinning the ball from one touchline to the other. With the defensive line fractured, the ball was won quickly and Sam Cooper fired it out from the base of the ruck. Sharp hands from Tom and Matt Corby allowed Toby Jones to canter over the whitewash and pick up his first try of the afternoon. His second soon followed from an attacking lineout on the half way line. The ball was won cleanly and spread out to the backs, where Robbie Faulkner again broke the tackle to make good yards down the field. The ball was off-loaded to George Bird and then eventually found it's way to Jones, who was able to jink inside the covering defender and score his second and the Rams' sixth try of the afternoon. This took the score up to 40-12.
With the game won, Shipston made a few changes, bringing on substitutes Brian Smith, Josh Bird and Chris Calcott, all of whom slotted in seamlessly and did some good work for the Rams. There was a slight dip in concentration which allowed Old Wheats to score their only try of the game. After conceding a penalty in their own half, Shipston turned their backs and allowed Wheats to take a quick tap penalty. They caught the Rams defence completely off guard to score in the corner. The conversion was added to move the score to 40-19. The response from the Rams was good and they got back to playing their patterns and running the Wheats' forwards around the park. They quickly found themselves in the opposition half with some quick hands and recycling at the break down. With the Wheats defence at sixes and sevens, Cooper again fired the ball out to the right. A huge gap opened up in the defensive line and Matt Corby was able to go through and score Shipston's seventh try. And it was Corby again who scored the eight and final try of the afternoon. Shipston won a penalty that was kicked to the corner and a driving maul was set up from the resulting lineout. The ball was worked well to the back and the forwards powered their way over the line, Corby the last man up with the ball. Jones this time added the extras from the conversion to give Shipston a comfortable 54-19 win.
Despite a fractured and sloppy first half display, Shipston can be pleased with the way they responded in the second half, putting together some excellent phases of running rugby and really stretching the opposition defence. The Rams defensive effort was much improved from previous weeks, with the likes of Elliott, Minogue and James Organ all doing some outstanding work. This weeks MOM is a difficult decision. Robbie Faulkner had an excellent day, contributing 27 points and there were really strong performances from George Bird, Toby Jones, James Organ and Tom Corby. It has to go this week to Matt Elliott, who was absolutely outstanding all afternoon. After coming in as a late replacement, his defensive efforts and tireless work rate were exemplary, showing the true strength in depth that this Shipston squad currently has.
There is a two week break in league action now for the Rams, upon which follows three fixtures against the bottom three teams in the league. The Rams will therefore be looking to keep the winning run going and maintaining their position towards the top of the division.