It is probably true to say that some of the Shipston team were nervous coming into this home match against Old Coventrians. The Shipston squad was seriously depleted with captain Matt Corby away due to the birth of his son, injuries to centres Robbie Faulkner and backrow Harry Barnard and others such as Tarek Laktaf, Charlie Hollies Everett and George Bird all unavailable. On top of that the Shipston boys had already played Old Coventrians away this season and had well beaten at that time, the Shippo lads knew the tough Cov team were up for some revenge.
However the Shipston boys did have home advantage this time around and also knew exactly what to expect. The Old Covs team were all big compared to the Shipston boys with more than a few kilos weight advantage at almost every position. The Rams knew what to expect and had to build a game plan around defeating the Covs picks around the fringes and big runs at the 10 channel.
The game started on a sunny afternoon with Shippo playing down the slope and they soon saw that the Old Covs team were going to do exactly as had been suspected. The Shippo boys defence was smashed into again and again but the Rams had been well drilled. Chop tackles at the ankle and a rushing defence meant no matter how many times the Cov boys tried the same tactic they just couldn’t make any ground.
Shipston in attack played to the exact plan the coaches had foretold, a few picks and smashes by the shippo forwards before spinning it wide. it was only 10 minutes into the game before this started to work a big smash by prop George Minogue saw the ball fly throw the hands of the shippo backs. It landed into the hands of winger Chris Calcott who showed his opposite number that his youthful age didn’t just mean fancy feet. Chris smashed straight over the top of his defender flattening him in the process to score out wide. The wide kick was missed 5-0.
This corner now became popular as in an almost identical play the Shipston forward smashed the ball up the centres ready for Chris to score again. The kick again was missed, déjà vu, but now it was 10-0. Old covs were not going to roll over and a big smashing run through the centres was finely let in as a single missed tackle allowed the Covs boys to score under the shippo posts. the conversion was made and the game became tighter 10-7.
The Shipston boys were ready to hit back they had won a penalty on the Old Covs 22m line but didnt go as expected. Normally in a game such as this the Rams would kick to the corner and drive but the lineout was probably the one area of the game not working well on this day so they instead decided to run. the ball was popped to big Jack Coupland who’d already decided to aim at the Covs flyhalf.... He was chopped short but the forwards recycled well and after another phase the ball was spun wide to find stand in the other winger Jack McMullen who dived over the line in the same corner. again the conversion was missed so the score stood at 15-7
The Old Covs boys hit back with their own penalty the driving maul couldn’t be stopped and the scores stood on a knife edge heading towards half time at 15-12. Stand in captain Tommy Barry wasn’t going to take that though, a beautiful sidestep by uncle Tom Corby saw the ball find its way once again in the same corner and this time Tommy was able to dive over. So the score going into the half was 20-12.
The change of ends didn’t see any changes to the game plans. Old Covs continued to pick up the ball at the fringes and the solid Shipston defence continued to smash the Cov boys back at every opportunity. The hits came from all over and with Will Seys and Matt Elliott in the back row leading the charge it was soon a turnover penalty to Shipston. This time they did decide to opt for the familiar catch and drive. Whilst the lineout hadn’t been functioning very well most of the afternono this time it was caught cleanly and the drive was set powerfully to allow prop Aaron Neal to claim the try. 25 -12 to the Rams it was looking good.
Old Covs weren’t going to take that and the relentless Shippo defence did slip briefly to allow a Cov player through the middle to score again the kick was no good though and the score was brought up to 25-17. Shippo continued the pressure fullback Ollie Morris was nearly clean threw after chasing a kick the full length of the pitch only to be called back for offside. However the pressure continued, a beautiful dummy pass by big Jon New saw the ball smashed up field by substitue Steven Baker back to shippo for the first time after his horrible injury last season. The ball was ball hacked onwards by hooker Andy Hunt but he couldnt secure it and Tommy Barry fell awkwardly when diving but possseion was secured. So whilst Tommy shouted in pain the ball quickly went through the hands to flyhalf Toby Jones who sidestepped to score between the Old covs sticks. This time Sam Cooper hit his conversion so the score was up to 32-17 and its hoped that Tommys injured ankle recovers quickly.
In the final five minutes the pressure of not getting anywhere seemed to show, first the Old Covs number 4 was yellowed carded for stamping and then quickly the hooker also. This time he saw first a yellow for a late shoulder charge and then red for his reaction to the yellow. Shipston however didn’t achieve much more against the reduced Cov team and the final whistle went. The scores stood at 32-17 and the Shipston home fans were over joyed after witnessing a fine performance.
It must have been difficult for the Shipston coaches to call a man of the match there was such big performances from every player across the board but the Coaches MoM was for a dominating game controlling the plays at flyhalf Toby Jones.... meanwhile the supporters quite rightly gave their Man of the Match to Leo Brice in the second Row who had a fantastic and tireless game with big hits and big carry's all afternoon.
Shipston will now travel to Rugby St.Andrews on 4th Feb for a rearrangeed fixture and will be aiming to replicate this performance again next week.