Shipston endured an agonizing defeat in the first game of the new league season away at newly demoted Dunlop, on a day when the Rams' high penalty count would prove to cost them dearly. They got off to the perfect start, scoring a brilliant team try from almost the first attack of the game. The recycled the ball quickly through a number of phases into the Dunlop twenty-two, before Robert James received an offload from Robbie Faulkner before sprinting away to touch down for the opening score. The conversion was missed.
There then entered phase of dominance for the home side as they used their size and weight advantage upfront to good effect, utilizing the driving maul from the lineout. After a number of penalties were conceded by Shipston, the Dunlop pack made the most of them and capitalized with 2 tries of their own from the successful driving maul. Both were converted to give them a 14-5 lead. Shipston were to finish the half the better side after reinserting their dominance around the park. The pace of the Rams' pack and quick ball from the breakdown were too much for the home side to deal with and the travelling support were soon celebrating another 2 tries for Shipston. The seasoned Adam Renardson, playing in the unfamiliar position of the wing, latched onto the end a brilliant passage of play to stride away into the corner, before Justin Saker followed up another break from Robbie Faulkner with a superb supporting line, to finish off under the posts. The second score was converted to give Shipston a 17-14 lead.
After more pressure from the visitors, Dunlop infringed at the break down to give the Rams' another chance for points. The penalty was knocked over by Robert James to give Shipston a half time lead of 20-14.
The second half was poor considering the high standards that Shipston have set themselves and the paid the price for repeated infringements at the break down. The penalty count throughout the game was far too high and it cost them what would've been a decent win away from home. Dunlop took full advantage of the errors and scored another try of their own in the left hand corner to bring the score back to 20-19 to Shipston, before the Rams' pulled further away with another penalty from James to make it 23-19 with 15 minutes to go. With no backs replacements in the squad, Shipston were forced to shuffle their pack after injuries to scrum half Sam Cooper and full back Tobi Faulkner, with the boys having to show real character and fight playing out of positions. The confusion led to another try for Dunlop with only minutes remaining as their centre made a break through the middle of 2 would be Shipston tacklers, to be hauled down by Justin Saker. The home side recycled the ball quickly though and scampered over in the far corner to take the lead 24-23 with 2 minutes left on the clock. In the pursuit of a match winning and bonus point earning fourth try, Shipston conceded yet another penalty in front of their posts and the successful kick made the score 27-23 to Dunlop. The penalty proved to be the last action of the game and the Rams' had to settle for a losing bonus point from a game in which they should really have taken the spoils.
A big thank you must go to all of the travelling support who showed up in great numbers despite the inclement weather. The MOM is a tough call this week, with many players putting their hand up. Charlie Hollies-Everett and Tarek Laktaf worked tirelessly all afternoon in the back row and centres Robbie Faulkner and Tom Corby both had a good afternoon. It must however go to Justin Saker this week, who made a welcome return to the side from deepest, darkest Devon and played as if he'd never been away, capping off the performance with a brilliant try. Shipston entertain Dunstablians at home on Saturday (16th) in the first round of the Powergen Senior Vase with the kick off at 2.30pm.