Shipston lost their third game on the bounce in Midlands 3 West (South) after a tough encounter away at Manor Park on Saturday (21st Jan). With a few late exclusions from the squad, the Rams travelled over without the full allocation of 18 players and perhaps this was the difference in the end, as Shipston grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory in the last play of the game.
Starting the game playing down the slope, Shipston began brightly enough and soon got deep into Manor Park territory. After a number of good phases and ball retention, Park infringed at the break down, giving Shipston the opportunity of a penalty kick at goal from right in front of the posts. The kick was sent wide and this set the marker for the rest of the half, as mistakes were made time and time again during the first period, scuppering any chances Shipston might have had in getting a strangle hold in the game. Off-loads were going to ground, the defence was slow to realign and tackles were missed in an error-strewn first half of rugby. Manor Park were all too grateful to accept the turnover ball and took full advantage, racking up an 8-0 lead at the break.
After some stern words during the interval, the Rams came out firing in the second half and looked a completely different team to that that had taken the field during the opening stanza. They started to look after the ball and strung some excellent phases of rugby together, stretching the Park defence from touchline to touchline. It wasn't long until they scored their first points of the afternoon, as Matt Corby was able to force his way over in the corner after some good hands in the middle of the pitch. The conversion was missed, but a penalty from in front of the posts some 5 minutes later was kicked to draw the scores level at 8-8 with half an hour to play. It was all Shipston from here on in as they controlled the pace of the game and kicked intelligently into the corners for position. Leo Brice, Jack Coupland and Aaron Neal all carried the ball with great effect and the back line were starting to pull the Park defence out of shape. After a sustained period of real pressure, the Rams went over for their second try, as Harry Barnard crashed his way through 3 defenders and touched down next to the right hand post. The conversion was made by Sam Cooper and Shipston now lead the game 15-8 with 15 minutes of the game remaining.
Manor Park were soon offered a life line as the Rams were reduced to 14 men! Ollie Morris was the man to see yellow after a high tackle on his opposite man. The home side took full advantage of the extra man and created an overlap to score in the corner with 10 minutes to go. The missed conversion gave Shipston the slenderest of leads (15-13) to hold on to in the dying embers of the match. It was a lead that they looked like maintaining, as their resolute defence prevented Park from gaining any real momentum or territory. It was looking for all money that the Rams would hold out for the win, but a penalty was awarded to Park on the Shipston twenty-two metre line for hands in at the ruck. The Park goal kicker stepped up and held his nerve to slot the kick and take the home side into the lead 16-15. Heartbreakingly so for the Rams, this penalty kick was deemed the last play of the game and the referee blew the final whistle, much to the dismay of the travelling players and supporters.
A disappointing outcome yet again for Shipston, who continue to show so much promise and ability without quite getting over the line in the last few weeks. Credit must go to Manor Park however, as they battled right to the very last whistle and retained the ball superbly before being awarded their winning penalty kick.
It's Old Coventrians at home for Shipston next weekend (28th) as they look to record their first victory of 2017 and do the double over the Coventry outfit.