Shipston secured a hard fought victory away at Ledbury on Saturday in a highly entertaining game, with a big crowd on hand for the Ledbury VP and family fun day. Having already secured promotion in their previous fixture at Coventry Welsh, the Rams travelled over to Herefordshire looking to sign off the 2018/19 season in a fitting way and claim the win against a tough and resilient Ledbury side. There were a few changes for Shipston as the centre pairing of Harry Jackson and Tom Corby were both missing and the influential Aaron Neal was also away from the back row, meaning some new combinations and faces came in and stepped up.
As is always the case away at Ledbury the home side started very well and immediately put the pressure onto Shipston, playing with a pace and intensity that was causing the visitors some problems. The forwards looked off the pace and the midfield was a bit frantic with the new combinations taking some time to gel, so Ledbury took full advantage a reeled of three early tries to take a deserved 17-0 lead with barely 20 minutes on the clock.
After some stern words and bit of soul searching under the posts, the Rams finally started to get themselves into the game and retain a bit of vital possession. They looked very comfortable with ball in hand and managed to cause some problems for the hosts, with the Shipston forwards in particular getting the better of their counterparts at the scrum and lineout. From an attacking lineout 5 metres from the Ledbury try line, the ball was won cleanly again by the Rams and they set up a driving maul at the back and began to work their way towards a try. With a couple of metres to go the back of the maul peeled off and Matt Corby was able to go over for the first Shipston points of the afternoon to bring the score back to 17-5. The conversion was missed from out wide and that was how the score remained until half time, both sides going into the break looking to press on from the first period.
A couple of changes were made in the pack, with George Minogue coming into the second row to replace Will Cowper and the fresh legs seemed to add impetus straight away. The forwards were much sharper to the breakdown in the second half and were able to secure good ball from scrum half Karl Slatter to set the backs away.
It was a half that was nip and tuck all the way through, with both sides seemingly gaining an advantage only to be pegged back once again. Shipston started the half better than the hosts and scored a succession of tries to bring the scores back to 17-15 and all to play for, thanks to well worked tries from Eddy Cowper and Tobi Faulkner. The centre pairing of Faulkner and Dan Taylor were now gelling much better and they began to wrestle the advantage of the midfield back from the hosts.
With another score from Ledbury, Shipston found themselves 24-15 behind and needed to regroup again. They worked their way up the field and were beginning to find holes in the Ledbury defence that weren't there in the first half. After a number of phases that had taken the Rams into the Ledbury twenty-two, tight-head prop, Ben Summers took a pop ball and went crashing through the defence. He was able to make his way towards the goal area and managed to show enough pace and strength to reach for the line and touch down for an impressive solo score. The Rams now back in the game with the scores at 24-22.
It was Shipston who scored next and in doing so, took the lead for the first time in the match! More good work from Spider Gasson in attack created so space for the backs to run into and they made their way up the field through Harry Clark. As the ball was spun left, Charlie Hollies-Everett went crashing through and was held up just short of the line. Veteran loosehead prop, Simon Baldwyn was first to the ruck and his quick thinking caught the Ledbury defence off guard, as he picked the ball up sharply and dived over the line to make it a try apiece for the front row union and gave Shipston the lead at 24-27.
Ledbury were not to be outdone and they showed great character and heart to work their way back into contention and put Shipston on the back foot. Their persistence and hard work was rewarded with another try which again gave them a slender advantage at 29-27 with only 10 minutes left on the clock.
As they had done so often this season, the Rams showed real composure in the remaining minutes of the game and worked their way into the Ledbury half with some quality rugby and ball retention. The gaps were again beginning to show in the hosts' defence and Rob James was able to put some big runners into the holes and get the Rams some excellent front foot ball. Following another fine solo run from Eddy Cowper at fullback, the ball was recycled quickly just 8 metres from the Ledbury line and Thomas Page took a pass from Karl Slatter to go crashing through the defensive line and score a final try for Shipston. The successful conversion put the score at 29-34 to the visitors with 4 minutes of the contest left to go.
The Rams were able to hold out for the rest of the match and recorded another fine victory on the road in what has been a very successful season for them. The MOTM was awarded to Ben Summers who scrummaged and carried the ball very effectively all afternoon, capping his performance with a fine individual try.
So Shipston concluded their final season in midlands 3 West (South) with another victory and a try bonus point to boot. The promotion has been nothing more than the players deserve this year following the hard work and commitment that has been shown throughout and the strength in depth throughout the club stands them in good stead moving up a division next year.
We would like to thank everybody who has been to watch us this year, we definitely have the best support in the league with most away fixtures feeling like a home tie thanks to the numbers that travel away with us. It really has been a whole club effort and everybody involved should be immensely proud. On to Midlands 2 next season!