Shipston continued their fine form this season, winning their fifth game in a row when they entertained Woodrush at Mayo Road on Saturday. Not only was it now five wins from five, it was also the fifth consecutive try-bonus point as well, propelling the Rams up to second in the table as the half way mark in the season approaches.
Having had a couple of weeks off, Shipston were not quite at their decisive best against a decent Woodrush side, but they did enough in the important parts of the match to prevail 30-14 and keep their league momentum going. The Rams started the game off very quickly, trying to manoeuvre the heavier Woodrush park around the park. Jack Barnard was soon to open the scoring after a number of phases forced Shipston into the opposition twenty-two. The ball was spun wide to Barnard, who burst through a couple of tackles and touched down for the first score of the afternoon. Sam Cooper's conversion made it 7-0. Not long after, Shipston added their second try after great work from the forwards. Woodrush conceded a penalty which was kicked 10 metres from their line for a line out, from which the Shipston forwards executed an brilliant driving maul and crashed their way over the line. Matt Corby the last man up with the ball to claim his first try of the afternoon. Cooper was unable to add the extras from out wide, Shipston now led 12-0.
Rather than push on and take the game away from the visitors, Shipston began to move away from their game plan and started throwing a few speculative passes and off-loads, which allowed Woodrush to get back into the match. That coupled with a number of penalties at the break down, allowed Rush to work their way downfield and deep into Shipston's half. They managed to score a try of their own before half time, after their fly-half made an interception from a pass on Shipston's twenty-two metre line to race away unchallenged and dot down for a try. A successful conversion made the score 12-7.
Despite Shipston's dominance of the game (especially the set-piece, in which the forwards had the upper hand all afternoon) the Rams were unable to add another try before the end of the first period, with a Sam Cooper penalty the only other score of the half, giving Shipston a 15-7 half time lead.
The second half started poorly for the Rams, when again a number of penalties were conceded at the ruck. The Woodrush fly half scored his second try of the match after a brilliant piece of individual skill. After they had won a line out, he was able to chip over the oncoming Shipston defence and gather the ball himself to score. The conversion made it 15-14 to Shipston and the game was very much on!
A penalty from Cooper stretched the lead out to four points, but the Rams found it difficult to breach the Woodrush defence. Eventually however, Shipston were able to get their third try of the afternoon. After some excellent phases of rugby and some strong carries from the likes of Charlie Hollies-Everett and Jack Coupland, the ball was spun right to Matt Corby, who was able to break a couple of tackles and score his second try of the afternoon. The Cooper conversion pushed the score to 25-14 with 15 minutes of the match remaining.
Shipston didn't have too long to wait until the fourth, bonus-point try was scored, with their game becoming more structured and opportunities arising as the Woodrush defence tired. George Bird was shifted to inside centre from the back row and he immediately punctured the defensive line and made great yards with ball in hand. After another one of his trademark breaks through the middle of the park, Shipston recycled quickly and spun the ball through the hands to Tommy Barry, who was able to step inside the covering defence and dive into the corner. The conversion from the touchline was missed, making the score 30-14 to the home side and that was how it remained. Shipston finished the game with 14 men after Tom Corby was sent to the naughty step for not retreating ten metres from a penalty, but the Rams held firm and managed to see out the rest of the match and claim the victory.
It wasn't a vintage performance from Shipston, with many opportunities falling foul of some poor handling in vital positions, but they can take heart in the way they stuck to the task and in particular, the way the forwards dominated a much bigger and heavier forward pack. There were a number of stand out performances throughout the game, with Charlie Hollies-Everett, Sam Cooper, Toby Jones and George Minogue all playing well. This weeks MOM however will go to Ben Haines, who scrummaged extremely well all match and showed an increased work rate this week around the park, often popping up in support and finding himself disrupting the ruck all afternoon.
Saturday was the last we will see of George Waywell, who sets off on his travels to Australia during the week. He has been a massive part of the club and the First XV for a number of years now and his presence around the place will certainly be missed. Everyone at Shipston wishes him the very best on his travels and look forward to welcoming him back in the future.