Shipston returned to league action on Saturday, after a two week break, with an emphatic victory over Stoke Old Boys RFC at Mayo Road to maintain their push for promotion as the league enters the business end of proceedings. Having lost to Pinley last time out (losing their 13 game unbeaten run) the Rams were keen to re-establish their hold on the second promotion spot and and get back to winning ways against a side who made them work extremely hard for victory in the reverse fixture.
Shipston began the match on the back foot as Stoke came flying out of the traps, forcing the hosts to concede a number of penalties and easy field position. Stoke took full advantage and kicked a penalty after only 2 minutes to take an early 3-0 lead. From then on in though it was pretty much all Shipston, as the home side went on to dominate the match and secured the four-try bonus point before the half was through.
The scoring was started off by winger Harry Clark, who bagged himself a brace on the afternoon, and a succession of slick moves and good link up play between forwards and backs caused issues for the visitors right from the onset. The ball retention and pace of the game was proving difficult for Stoke to live with and the precision of Shipston's back line wielded a number of line breaks and good territory for the Rams.
The forwards were also enjoying the upper hand at the set piece. Although the scrums were evenly matched as a contest, the Shipston line out was extremely dominant and this was an area that brought about huge success for them all afternoon. The third try of the afternoon for the Rams came on the back of their first line out, as a well executed driving maul saw veteran loose-head prop, Simon Baldwyn burrow over the line to finish off a powerful drive! With a further brace of tries, one each for Robert James and Harry Jackson, Shipston went in at half time with a lead of 26-3.
Having already secured the bonus point and the Stoke boys beginning to feel the pace of the game a little, Shipston put their foot on the gas in the second half and scored a further 42 unanswered points. There were tries for George Wilcock, following a tremendous interception and 50 metre dash for the line, Will Cowper, Harry Clark, Harry Jackson, Ed Cowper and Robert James to cap off an excellent performance for Shipston and another valuable win in the context of the league.
The only down side to the game was the injury to second row George Minogue, who clashed heads with the Stoke winger during a collision, causing a concussion for both men and a couple of weeks on the sidelines for both. There was a welcome return to action for Charlie Hollies-Everett following a few weeks out with an injured wrist and a return to first team action for both Will and Ed Cowper, both of whom performed extremely well when called upon.
The final score was a resounding 68-3 to Shipston and it is a victory that further increases their points differential over the other teams around them in the table.
There were a number of notable performances throughout, with the likes of Aaron Neal and George Wilcock performing admirably int he forwards and Harry Jackson, Matt Daniells and Tobi Faulkner all very solid in the backs. There was a joint MOTM this week though, with both Robert James, who was excellent at fly half and almost flawless from the kicking tee, and Ben Summers, who carried the ball and defended very well all game, sharing the award this week.
Shipston travel to Upton on Severn on Saturday, with kick off at 2.15pm.