Shipston suffered their first defeat in 9 matches on Saturday after they made the trip north to take on Rugby St Andrews in the latest round of Midlands league action. Despite still missing a number of key players through injury, the Rams' made the trip in confident mood after s run of good results in both the league and RFU Senior Vase.
It was a sluggish start to the game for Shipston as they began slowly and allowed their hosts easy possession and territory in the opening exchanges. After a missed penalty at goal from St Andrews, it was actually the Rams who started the scoring for the day bringing up their first try of the afternoon inside 10 minutes. Good pressure in defence forced a spillage out in the St Andrews back line and Tobi Faulkner was able to hack it down field and race away from the covering defence to score. Robert James made no mistake with the conversion, 0-7 to Shipston.
The home side managed to string a number of good phases together and Shipston began to give away far too many penalties at the break down, shifting momentum firmly back in St Andrews direction. They took full advantage of the Rams' ill-discipline and scored 2 tries of their own to take the lead 10-7. A penalty from James brought the scores level before some sloppy covering defence allowed Rugby to regain the lead with another try 15-10. Luckily for Shipston the St Andrews kicker didn't have his kicking boots on, otherwise they could've found themselves dead and buried in the first half, however his missed conversions and penalty kicks kept the Rams' hopes alive. Another brace of penalties from James gave Shipston a 15-16 lead with only minutes to play in the first period but they were unable to make it to the break with the lead intact. Some more good work from St Andrews capitalised on a break in concentration from the visitors and they raced over for their fourth try of the game to go in at half time with a lead of 20-16.
If Shipston were going to take a strong hold of the match they needed to try and retain possession better, because with ball in hand they looked threatening all afternoon, it was just too rare and occurrence! This wasn't to be the case though, as the Rams were guilty of giving away more cheap penalties in dangerous positions on the field. St Andrews had already shown they had a good driving maul throughout the match and they made good use of it to score their fifth try of the game, going over after a lineout on the Shipston 10 metre line. A sixth try was scored shortly after as the Rugby outside centre burst through the middle of the Shipston defence to touch down under the posts and things were looking bleak for the Rams' at 32-16 down.
Finally Shipston managed to hold onto the ball and play a bit of rugby and they looked threatening with every attack! Robert James made an excellent break from his own twenty-two, stepping inside his opposite man an putting on the gas to take the Rams within touching distance of the try line. The Rugby full back came across to make the covering tackle but James was able to offload to the supporting Tobi Faulkner, who cantered over for his second try of the afternoon.
The forwards were beginning to get into the match more and more with the likes of Harry Barnard and Oli Ball carrying the ball very well. From an attacking scrum on the St Andrews twenty-two, scrum half Sam Cooper broke from the base of the scrum and raced around the covering defence to score the Rams' third try of the afternoon. It brought the scores to 32-26 and Shipston were now within striking distance of a victory away from home. The remaining ten minutes highlighted the difficulties that Shipston had faced all afternoon in that they never really managed to get anything going. Every bit of momentum was snuffed out and the attacking threat was nullified through a combination of poor decision making and silly errors. With the last play of the game the Rams' thought they had won a turnover at the ruck, only for the play to continue and Rugby to kick the ball off the field to secure the win.
It was a disappointing result for the Rams but one that was ultimately fair on the day. St Andrews took full advantage of the possession and territory that they were given and while Shipston did look threatening with ball in hand, their retention was ultimately not good enough.
The Rams' move onto cup action next weekend as they host Vipers RFC in the quarter finals of the RFU Senior Vase, kick off at 2.15pm.