Shipston were left frustrated on Saturday as they were held to a draw away at manor Park, despite having every opportunity to win the game. With a number of players away, it was an unsettled side that travelled over to Nuneaton but they started the game extremely brightly and soon found themselves on the front foot. The forwards dominated the set-piece in the early exchanges and pushed the Manor Park pack around the park. It was only a matter of minutes into the game when Harry Barnard went crashing over for the first score. Following a number of quick phases deep into the Park half, the ball was recycled to the right and Robert James popped the ball off to Barnard to smash his way through a couple of tacklers and touch down. James himself converted the try to make it 7-0 to the Rams. From the resulting re-start, Shipston gathered the ball on their own twenty-two and spun the ball wide to Harry Clark. He stepped inside the covering defence and raced 80 metres to score the visitors second try in quick succession. The conversion was missed to give the Rams a 12-0 lead with barely 8 minutes on the clock.
From then on it was a frustrating afternoon for the visitors. They lost Tarek Laktaf to a dislocated shoulder (later to find out that he requires surgery and will miss a large part of the season - we all wish him well in his recovery) and Manor Park were allowed to slow the ball down at the break down, making it very difficult for Shipston to gain any momentum. In the driving wind and rain quality rugby was replaced with a gritty and turgid affair, both sides scrapping for anything loose to try and gain the upper hand. There were no further scores in the first period and the visitors went in at half time with their 12-0 lead still intact.
The second half followed very much the same pattern as the first, error strewn and lacking any real quality from both sides. Park continued to get away with murder at the breakdown, continually going off their feet without any repercussions and thwarting any opportunities Shipston had to play any rugby. The Rams' were also masters of their own downfall, failing to kick the ball out of play on a number occasions to relieve pressure and knocking the ball on when chances presented themselves. Aaron Neal was having an excellent game, carrying the ball well in attack and making lots of yards to try and get Shipston on the front foot. From the concession of a penalty, Manor Park kicked the ball into Shipston's twenty-two and set up a driving maul from their line-out. They executed the maul very well and managed to shunt the Rams pack over the try line and get on the score sheet, moving the score to 12-5 to Shipston.
12-5 was how it remained right until the very last play of the game. Shipston were forced deep back into their own half as the Manor crowd roared their team on to grab something from the game. With no time remaining, they elected to tap quickly from a penalty and tried to force their way over in the corner. Despite the ball seemingly being held up over the line, the try was awarded, much to the dismay of the travelling support and the laws of physics. To rub salt into the wound the Manor Park kicker slotted the conversion from right on the touchline to rescue a draw and share the spoils.
Credit must go to Manor Park who battled throughout the 80 minutes and never gave up until the very last whistle was blown. It is a case of 2 points dropped for Shipston however, who should really have done more to finish the game off after going 12-0 up with a handful of minutes on the clock. MOTM this week goes to Aaron Neal who carried the ball superbly all afternoon and was a real focal point in attack for the Rams. Shipston travel away to Edwardians RFC in the second round of the RFU Senior Vase next weekend, looking to take that next step on the road to Twickenham.