Shipston maintained their winning run and made it 5 wins in a row in Wadworth 6X Southern Counties North after they defeated a spirited Stow RFC in a local derby at Mayo Road on Saturday afternoon. Despite the wet and blustery conditions, the patrons turned out in force on VP's Day and a large crowd full of both home and away support witnessed a bruising encounter in the latest round of action.
Shipston welcomed Simon Baldwyn into the front row for his first start of the season, replacing the injured Luke Roberts and Tom Mylott came onto the bench in place of Charlie Hollies -Everett who was also carrying a knock from the previous week. Stow RFC won the toss and chose to play with the elements in the first half, hoping to utilize the slope and strong wind to good effect. The visitors started very brightly and showed their intent early on, using big forward runners off 9 and 10 and looking to make inroads into the Shipston half at close quarters. The Rams defence was equal to the task early on however and both sides battled hard to get a grip of the contest without any real success.
Stow made good use of the breeze and kicked for territory whenever possible, making it difficult for Shipston to make any real impression into the visitors half and they were rewarded with the first points of the game on 25 minutes, as a break down the left hand side and a good offload saw the centre gallop under the posts unopposed and touch down for the opening score. The easy conversion was made and Stow took the lead at 0-7.
The rest of the half was all about Shipston staying in the contest and trying to get to half time as few points down as possible. Their defence has been a real area of strength all season and it proved so again as some fierce tackling around the breakdown and in midfield prevented Stow from getting any real momentum throughout the remainder of the half. Both sides were unable to break through before the break and so Shipston ended the first period 0-7 down.
At the start of the second half the Rams made it clear that they wanted to use the elements as best they could and kicked for territory rather than trying to play too much rugby in their own half. Robert James controlled the play very well from fly half and the forwards set the platform for good clean ball with some strong carrying into the Stow midfield. The Shipston pack were also making their presence felt at the set piece and were dominating the scrum and lineout. This made it much easier for the backs to strike with good clean ball and enabled the midfield to gain control over the visitors. Harry Jackson and Tom Corby were strong in the centres and the back 3 of Matt Daniells, Henry Hopkins and Isaac Rowles looked dangerous with ball in hand.
Issac Clayton, Tom Mylott and Tobi Faulkner all entered the fray early in the second half and immediately made an impact, with the fresh legs adding real impetus to the Rams attacking efforts. A renewed urgency and tempo allowed the Rams to dominate the proceeding throughout the second half and once they scored their first try of the afternoon there only looked like being one winner. The first of the tries was scored by James, who capitalized on some quick, front foot ball and was able to jink his way past a couple of defenders and dive for the score. His own successful conversion drew the scores level at 7-7.
Almost immediately from the restart the Rams were over again, following some excellent work by Will Cowper at the kick off. His brilliant take of the high ball on the run got Shipston over the gain line straight away and following some quick recycling and a couple of good carries from Matt Corby and George Minogue, the ball was in William Gassons hands. Following a hard running line against the grain, he took a pop off James and smashed his way through the defensive line and made his way to the Stow twenty-two. His good mate Harry Jackson was in support and was able to take an easy pass to race clear of the covering defenders and score the Rams' second try of the game. James was again successful with the conversion and Shipston now led 14-7.
Some more strong defensive efforts from the Rams thwarted any attempts that Stow made to gain territory and the added pressure caused a number of infringements that allowed Shipston cheap possession. From a penalty, the Rams kicked deep into the corner and had an attacking lineout just 8 metres from the Stow try line. After a clean take at the lineout, Shipston set up a driving maul and made their way towards the Stow try line, inching forward until they were able to dive over for another score. Skipper, Matt Corby was the man who had control of the ball at the back of the drive and his try, which was converted successfully by James, opened up a 21-7 lead for Shipston and a chance to push for the bonus point clinching fourth try.
Among the excellent play and joy at the efforts during the second period there was also some sad news for the Rams as Henry Hopkins was forced off the field midway through the half following a tackle on the Stow twenty-two. He was later diagnosed as having suffered a broken collarbone which is desperate news for him personally and the club, as he had been playing some excellent rugby since coming into the team in recent weeks. Everyone at the club wishes him a speedy recovery.
Shipston continued to apply pressure as the match went on and continued to look dangerous with ball in hand. An attacking scrum on the half way line gave the Rams a good attacking platform and the back line didn't disappoint. After the scrum had been won, the ball was spun quickly to the right and the midfield were able to create an overlap with some good hands in the middle of the park. The ball was passed to Tobi Faulkner who galloped clear of his defender and then drew a well timed pass to Isaac Rowles on the outside, who was able to saunter in under the posts for Shipston's 4th try of the game. James' conversion pushed the score out to 28-7 to Shipston and the bonus point was secured.
With only minutes of the contest remaining Shipston continued to push hard and drew some more penalties from Stow through the pressure at the break down. James was unable to keep his 100% kicking record going though and the Rams couldn't stretch their lead any further, so the final whistle blew with the scores still 28-7 to the hosts.
The win maintained Shipston's excellent winning run, which now stands at 5 games and also keeps them third in the table after 6 games, behind Witney and Aylesbury. The MOTM was shared this week between 3 players as it was impossible to split them. It could've gone to a number of players for their efforts throughout the 80 minutes but it was decided that Alex Hammond, William Gasson and Ben Summers would all share the accolade for their brilliant work in the forwards.
There is no game for the 1st team this coming Saturday but they return to league action on the 9th November when they travel to Didcot RFC.