Shipston sit at the top of Midlands 3 West (South) after they pulled off a brilliant performance away at Woodrush RFC to take the spoils. With a host of injuries and unavailability, Joe Nicholls, Andrew Powell, Tom Beeley and Harry Jackson made their first appearances for the Rams this season and in doing so, mean that Shipston have now used an incredible 41 different players in the first XV this year - a remarkable statistic and real evidence of the strength in depth currently at the club. The victory was made all the more impressive by the fact that both coaches, Alex Ray and Adam Renardson, were unable to attend the match!
Shipston kicked off in the first half and got off to an awful start, allowing Woodrush to slice through the midfield and get the first score on the board with barely a minute of the match played. The successful conversion meant that the Rams trailed 7-0 with hardly time to draw breath. From then on Shipston really took control of the tie and began to get into their stride. They retained the ball superbly, going through a number of phases and putting real pressure on the Woodrush defence. Eventually the pressure took it's toll and the Rams were awarded a penalty 30 metres out, which Robbie Faulkner made no mistake in knocking over for Shipston's first points of the afternoon. The penalty was soon followed by a first try for the visitors, with Faulkner again the scorer of the points. Some excellent line speed in defence forced Woodrush to spill the ball in midfield and Faulkner was able to gather and race away from the covering defenders to go under the posts. The resulting conversion pushed Shipston ahead for the first time in the match at 10-7.
The second try of the afternoon for the Rams' followed a similar pattern to their first, with some brilliant defence forcing Woodrush backwards. Eventually they attempted to spin the ball out wide and Chris Calcott was able to pluck the pass out of the air and set off towards the try line. It wasn't the quickest of 80 metre races, but eventually he was able to stumble over the line and give Faulkner an easy attempt at another conversion. The Rams' had now stretched their lead to ten points, 17-7.
It was all Shipston for the remainder of the half, with the likes of Tom Beeley, Leo Brice and Ben Haines carrying the ball extremely well for the visitors and making good ground into the Rush half on a number of occasions. Against the run of play however, Woodrush managed to pick off an intercept pass of their own and raced away into the corner to score their second try of the afternoon. The conversion was missed and Shipston went into the break with a well deserved lead of 17-12.
The second half for Shipston was all about control, kicking for territory and playing the game in the areas that they wanted to play. From a line out deep into the Woodrush half, the ball was won and spun into midfield. Faulkner linked up with his brother, Tobi and he was able to receive a return pass and ghost under the sticks for his second and the Rams' third try of the match. The conversion made the score 24-12.
With bodies tiring and players looking increasingly weary as the pitch churned up, Woodrush used their heavier forwards to try and gain momentum. They kept the ball tight and trundled their way towards the Shipston line, but the Rams' defensive effort was superb, repelling them time and time again. Eventually however the sustained pressure became to much for Shipston and Woodrush were able to crash their way over for their third score of the game. The try meant that they were back within bonus point territory with the score at 24-17 to the visitors.
The Rams' weren't going to let the game slip though and they continued their monumental effort for the remainder of the match. With the clock on their side, Shipston were awarded a penalty and Faulkner stepped up once again to slot it home and increase their lead to ten points, 27-17. With only a few minutes left on the clock, Shipston held firm and were able to see out the rest of the tie and gain a valuable victory away from home.
It was a fantastic performance from the side and the win moved the Rams' to the top of the league as the Christmas break fast approaches. The whole team were superb, with the likes of Harry Jackson, Andy Hunt and Tom Beeley working extremely hard for the forwards and of course Robbie Faulkner, with his personal tally of 22 points, having a stand out game also. This weeks MOTM however must go to Leo Brice! He was simply imperious at the line out and was a constant force carrying the ball, always willing and able to do the hard yards and make valuable ground for the Rams.
Shipston entertain Upton on Severn next week with kick off at 2.15pm. It is also VP's day at the club, so we are expecting a good crowd to witness the confident Rams go about their work once again.