Shipston overcame a 17-8 half time deficit to pick up a vital victory away at Old Leamingtonians and move ahead of their hosts into second place in the division, keeping them well in the hunt for promotion at the end of the season. The game started brightly as both sides looked to move the ball quickly and soon opened up into a fast-flowing affair with both sides playing good rugby.
The home side were the first to get over the line for a try as a lack of concentration form the Rams gifted OL's a series of penalties and territory that they took full advantage of to score. The converted try gave the hosts an early 7-0 lead. Shipston fought back strongly and had a spell of 15 minutes where they were really dominant, controlling possession and working their way down field. They scored their first try of the game from a well formed driving maul after winning a lineout 8 metres out from the OL's try line. The Rams' pack managed to get a shunt on and were able to drive the home side over the line, with Matt Corby at the tail of the drive to claim the try.
A penalty from the returning Sam Cooper gave Shipston the lead at 7-8 with 20 minutes of the half to go, but from there on in it was all OL's. They moved the ball sharply from the ruck and played with a good intensity that caused the Shipston defence some issues. Their dominance in the second half of the first period was rewarded with a further two tries to give them a commanding lead at the break of 17-8.
Shipston knew that they need to sharpen up around the ruck and keep the ball in hand during the second half if they were going to get anything from the game and that's exactly what they did. They defended resolutely and gave away far fewer penalties to nullify the OL's attacking threat. With ball in hand they were clinical and played with real pace and intensity. The Rams' second try of the match came through Tom Corby, who picked the ball up on the OL's ten metre line and picked a gap through two forwards to exploit. He barrelled his way over the covering fullback and touched down under the posts to get Shipston back within two points at 17-15.
The Shipston forwards were beginning to get on top and managed to create an excellent platform from the set-piece for the back line to attack. They were rewarded with a third try of the afternoon, scored by Karl Slatter on the left wing, following some solid phases of possession. They managed to create an overlap on the left wing and Slatter ghosted over the line to give the Rams the lead at 17-20.
With 15 minutes left on the clock Shipston scored their fourth try to secure the bonus point, following more good work in the midfield. Corby was sent crashing through the middle and showed great strength to stay on his feet and gain 20 metres, before the ball was recycled quickly at the ruck and found its way to his centre partner, Harry Jackson. Jackson showed good strength of his own to beat a couple of defenders and race away for the score. The successful conversion from Cooper gave the Rams the lead at 17-27.
The final minutes of the match were all about defence for Shipston as they repelled everything that OL's could throw at them. They dug in deep and ground out a fantastic result, picking up the win with the final score remaining 17-27 to the Rams.
It was a very pleasing performance and a great game of rugby played between two good sides and the win catapults Shipston above OL's in the standings and now with only Pinley between them and the top of the league. There were some excellent performances from a number of players in the Shipston side, with the likes of Will Hammond, Tom Corby and Harry Jackson all performing brilliantly in the back line. The forwards were not to be outdone, William Gasson, Aaron Neal and Ben Summers worked tirelessly in the pack also, but the MOTM this week must go to Leo Brice. He had an outstanding game int he second row, commanding the lineout all afternoon and carrying the ball with great strength on numerous occasions in attack.
Shipston are back at home on Saturday when they entertain Old Yardelians at Mayo Road, kick off at 2.15pm