Shipston cemented their place in the top three in the league, chasing promotion from the division, after comfortably defeating Manor Park at Mayo Road on Saturday in blustery and bitterly cold conditions. Playing up the hill in the first period, the Rams got off to a blistering start and found themselves 21-0 within the first 10 minutes, though tries from Harry Clark, Tom Corby and Matt Daniells - all converted by Rob James who was flawless from the tee all afternoon. Playing with a strong breeze, they utilised their kicking game very effectively to gain territory and with their lineout functioning brilliantly all game, were able to put real pressure on the visitors from the outset.
The game was in danger of boiling over after 15 minutes, following an act of absolute lunacy from the Manor Park captain, after seemingly being frustrated by how his side were being beaten in every facet of the game, he threw a punch at Shipston prop, Ben Summers (in his first game for the club) while he was walking away and wasn't looking and was rightly shown a straight red card for his cowardly act. Summers was replaced, luckily with no more than severe swelling, bruising and a sore head and the game was able to continue once the referee had restored order.
The numerical advantage only further increased Shipston's dominance over proceedings and they entered the break leading 31-0, thanks to a penalty from James and a try from Thomas Page, back in action after a couple of seasons hiatous, after he picked from an attacking scrum and powered his way over the line from 6 metres out.
The advantage of the breeze for the Rams in the first half was replaced by the slope of the pitch in the second and they continued their assault on the Manor Park try line, scoring a further 6 tries. Tobi Faulkner was first to go over for Shipston following good work in the midfield from his brother Robbie and Tom Corby. He was followed over the line by the impressive George Wilcock, Matt Daniells for his second, Karl Slatter (following a brilliant solo run) and Robbie Faulkner, to increase the score to 66-0.
It was a really dominant performance from the Rams who were able to play some excellent rugby in very testing conditions, throwing the ball around in the backs and retaining possession superbly all game. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the afternoon however was the defence. It was resolute and rock solid all afternoon, re-aligning quickly and effectively and preventing the visitors from getting a sniff of a score.
The scoring wasn't complete yet for Shipston though, as they saved probably their best try until last. Starting through the hands in their own twenty-two, Robbie Faulkner launched an attack and the Rams flooded through in numbers to get around the ball. After passing through numerous sets of hands, the ball found its way back to Faulkner who was able to finish what he started some 30 seconds before and round off a fine afternoon for both himself and the team, leaving the final score 73-0.
The result was no more than Shipston deserve after delivering a pulsating performance in some terrible conditions, lifting the spirits of the hardened supporters that made their way to the ground in good numbers despite the inclement weather. The forwards were completely dominant in the set piece and it was great to have the likes of Tom Page and Simon Baldwyn back in action for the club and playing so well. The whole pack worked hard and carried the ball extremely well, with the likes of Charlie Hollies-Everett and Tom Mylott grafting hard all game to retain possession for the Rams.
The back line were marshalled superbly well by Slatter and Robbie Faulkner at half backs and the midfield of Tom Corby and Tobi Faulkner were far too good for the opposition, creating all kinds of space for the pace out wide in Clark, Daniells and James. Overall, a great team performance.
The MOTM this week was awarded to the returning Tom Page, who although was perhaps lacking the fitness that will come with increased game time, was dynamic with the ball in hand and proved a real handful for the Manor Park defence all game, bursting through tackles and making good yards with every carry. He set a great platform of go forward ball for the rams that they thrived off throughout.
Shipston finish the calendar year with a trip over to Berkswell & Balsall next week, looking to carry on their unbeaten run which has now stretched to 10 games, kick off at 2.15pm.