Shipston finished off their season in style - and kept up their end of the bargain regarding their potential promotion from the division - by defeating Woodrush at home on Saturday to gain the bonus-point victory required to take them above old Leamingtonians and into second place in the league. The win does not guarantee them promotion however as Old Coventrians lie in third, two points behind the Rams’, meaning victory against Woodrush in their remaining victory will take them above Shipston and gain them promotion at the expense of the Rams.
Knowing that a bonus point victory was required, Shipston began the game at a good pace and soon out Woodrush on the back foot, defending deep in their own half. A number of penalties from the visitors allowed the Rams to gain good field position and they opted to kick to the corner and go for a lineout. The ball was won cleanly and from the resulting driving maul, Shipston were able to power their way over the line, with captain, Matt Corby last man up with the ball to claim the try. The missed conversion gave the hosts a 5-0 lead only minutes into the fixture.
If Shipston thought this was going to be an easy afternoon they were soon dealt a reality check to remind them otherwise, as Woodrush came roaring back into the game and showed a real determination and physical edge to put the Rams on the defensive. Their persistent pressure eventually told and they scored a try of their own after their centre went crashing over from 5 metres out, leaving the score level again at 5 apiece.
Shipston then got back to playing some of their best rugby and had a spell of twenty minutes where they exerted real dominance over their visitors. Corby picked up his second try of the game from another driving maul, the result of which was a carbon copy of the first try of the game and then Tobi Faulkner scored the Rams’ third try of the match shortly after. After some excellent work from Alex Hammond and Will Seys to get Shipston into a good position, Faulkner was able to crash his way over from close to the line and push Shipston’s lead out to 17-5 with ten minutes of the half remaining.
The remainder of the half certainly didn’t go to plan for the hosts as they endured a ten minutes to forget. Faulker was forced off the field for a HIA following a collision in the midfield and James Pither received a yellow card for petulantly throwing the ball at a Woodrush player, leaving the Rams down to 14 men for the remainder of the first period. This all culminated in Woodrush scoring a brace of tries in that 10 minutes spell to bring the scores level at 17-17 and setting up a nail biting second half for Shipston.
It was a half that would prove extremely attritional as both sides defended resolutely and there were some huge contacts in the midfield. Faulkner returned to the field but was forced off permanently following another collision and fullback Sam Cooper was also substituted following an injury, meaning that Shipston were forced to reshuffle and play the last twenty minutes of the match with 11 forwards on the field!
It was ultimately looking like the score would remain at 17-17 and Shipston would miss out on the opportunity to go above Old Leamingtonians in the league, but they sparked into life in the final ten minutes of the match and bagged a brace of tries to push themselves beyond reach of Woodrush.
Harry Clark continued his fantastic run of scoring by getting the fourth try and clinching the bonus point, latching onto a flat, floated pass from Dan Taylor, before Taylor himself settled the tie with the fifth score for the Rams, flopping onto the end of an audacious chip over the defence from Harry Barnard and touching down to scenes of great jubilation. Final score, 29-17 to Shipston.
MOTM this week goes to Leo Brice. He was an absolute work horse in the second row all afternoon, carrying plenty of ball and doing the donkey work to get the Rams into great positions across the field.
It’s an anxious wait now for Shipston, whose destiny is in the hands of Old Coventrians. A defeat for Old Covs would see the Rams promoted but a victory would see them leapfrog Shipston into second place and secure promotion for themselves.