Shipston cemented their place at the top of Midlands 3 West (South) with a comprehensive victory away at Old Coventrians, who themselves were harboring thoughts of a promotion push. With a number of regulars unavailable through injury or work commitments, John Higley came into the side for his first appearance for the Rams and Karl Slatter played his first game of the season at scrum half.
With the ground wet and slippy under foot, Shipston made an error-strewn start to the game, with some poor handling allowing Old Covs to settle quickest into the fixture. The early pressure from the hosts paid off and they were first to get on the scoresheet through a well worked try. Simple hands created an overlap on the right touchline and the winger coasted in for the first score of the afternoon. An unsuccessful conversion made it 5-0 to Old Covs.
The try seemed to spur the Rams into life and they were soon back into the game with some territory and possession of their own. Harry Jackson and Tom Corby made some strong runs in the centre of the pitch and the forwards began to get their hands on the ball and carry with more aggression. Robbie Faulkner made a clean break into the Covs half and made his way towards the twenty-two before being hauled down by the covering fullback. He managed to get his hands free and offloaded to Alex Hammond who ran a brilliant support line to touch down under the posts. The conversion was made and the Rams now lead 7-5.
A penalty from Faulkner extended Shipston's lead to 10-5 and that was how it would stay until half time, although a couple of nasty looking injuries for the Rams caused a reshuffle just before the break. Tom Corby suffered a dislocated shoulder in attempting to score a try on the half hour mark and was replaced by the returning Chris Calcott. Unfortunately for Corby the diagnosis means that his season has now come to a premature end. George Wilcock was also forced from the field after landing awkwardly following a lineout and damaging his ankle. He was replaced by Ben Haines and Matt Corby had to move to number 8 from hooker.
The second half began and Shipston immediately took to the task and looked a much better outfit than their first half offering. They controlled the ball much better and started to really open up the Old Covs defence when in attack. Despite their dominance, it was actually the home side that scored next, grabbing their second try of the game after another handling error from the Rams. The try leveled the game up at 10-10 with everything to play for, but rather than wilt under the pressure from the big Old Covs forward pack, this seemed to galvanize Shipston and they started to play some excellent rugby.
Robbie Faulkner grabbed the second try of the game for the Rams after great work from Karl Slatter, who fielded a kick on the 10 metre line a made a mazy run towards the Old Covs line. Having been held up 5 metres short, the ball was spun quickly to the left where Faulkner had made a strong run from deep to go over next to the posts. His own conversion gave Shipston a 7 point buffer at 17-10.
A penalty for the Rams extended their lead to 10 points before they scored another excellent try. From an attacking lineout Shipston ran a well rehearsed move in the centre of the field, allowing Harry Clark to make a half break before offloading to Tobi Faulkner who had run a powerful line through the gap. He showed a clean pair of heels to the covering defence and raced 50 metres to score Shipston's third try of the afternoon and advance the score onto 25-10.
With the game now won, it was down to Shipston to try and secure a bonus point and score a fourth try of the match. With a key lineout option in Wilcock off the field, the Rams did extremely well to win their own ball from the set-piece and they worked their way down field towards the Old Covs line. With the last play of the game, they found themselves deep in the opposition twenty-two banging away at the door. After a number of phases and excellent ball retention they were finally rewarded as quick hands from Corby and Jackson on the right hand side released Calcott in space to dive over and claim the fourth try of the afternoon and all 5 points for the victorious Rams. The final score was 30-10 to Shipston.
It was an brilliant performance from Shipston who again showed their strength in depth and picked up another bonus point victory away from home. As well as the obvious attacking proficiencies that the Rams displayed their defence was equally as pleasing, getting off the gain line quickly and stopping a big Old Covs pack from gaining any real momentum. The MOTM this week could've gone to any number of players, with the likes of Jackson, Pither and both Faulkners all having very strong games. However it will go this week to Alex Hammond who showed tremendous work rate and intent all afternoon and was imperious in defence all match.
Shipston host Old Leamingtonians next week with the kick off at 2.15pm.