Shipston continued their fine run of form and points scoring on Saturday as they travelled over to Alcester RFC and picked up the try bonus point before half time, coming out of the blocks quickly and startling their hosts with an array of blistering running rugby. With Old Leamingtonians out of action this weekend, the Rams knew that a win would cement their place in second in the league and give them a real stronghold on the promotion spot.
They got off to the best possible start, as they scored with the opening passage of play in the match. The Rams kicked off up the the hill and into a very strong wind, so they knew that they'd have to work hard for everything in the first period, but they got off to a dream start. The ball was knocked on by the hosts from the kick off and from there, Shipston piled on the pressure, off-loading well and securing good quick ball to play a number of slick phases int he Alcester half. There was no mistake from the visitors and they went over for the first try of the game with barely a minute on the clock.
As was hardly surprising given the conditions the Rams elected to play a lot of ball in hand rather than attempt to kick for territory, so they had to be precise and clinical with the ball. With that in mind they played some brilliant rugby in the first half and took the game away from Alcester as a contest. Three more scores were added before the half hour and the lead was pushed up to 20-0, securing the bonus point try in the process.
Alcester did grab a try of their own with the last play of the half, meaning that the sides went in at the break with Shipston leading 20-7, but with the slope and a good breeze int he second half, the Rams knew that they were in control of the game.
They started the second half brightly and were soon back on the attack, kicking for territory well and making good use of the conditions to turn Alcester around time and time again. Much tot he home sides credit they continued to work tirelessly and made it as difficult as possible for Shipston to get the quick ball that they were after, but the elements and the quality of the Rams play was against them, so they found it difficult to make a real impact on the visitors defence.
Robbie Faulkner bagged a try early in the half for Shipston to cap off an excellent individual performance. Unfortunately for the Rams he was unable to see out the entirety of the contest as a dislocated shoulder forced him to leave the field early, so a re-shuffle in the back line saw Rob James move to fly-half and Tobi Faulkner come back onto the field.
A further two tries were scored for Shipston, including Harry Jackson picking up his hat trick as they extended their lead to 41-7 with 10 minutes of the game remaining. It looked like they might push on further, but Alcester battled hard in the remaining minutes and picked up a deserved brace of tries of their own, leaving the final score at 41-19 to Shipston.
It was a win that banished the demons of the previous season's poor performance at Alcester (in which they were on the wrong end of a good hiding) and the result tightened the Rams's grip on the second promotion spot with only 3 league games remaining.
There were a number of excellent performances for Shipston, with Simon Baldwyn and Ben Summers providing an solid base up front int he pack and Tom Corby and Robbie Faulkner playing very well in the midfield. The MOTM this week must go to Harry Jackson however, as a hat trick of tries and a solid defensive display capped off a fantastic game for the centre.
The Rams have a week off next week but then return to action on the 23rd as they host Berkswell & Balsall RFC at Mayo Road.