Shipston's impressive 7 match winning run came to an end on Saturday as they were defeated for the first time since the opening game of the season following an extremely hard fought and close encounter down at High Wycombe RFC. After the impressive victory the week before against Wallingford, the Rams traveled down with confidence and hopes of extending the winning run to eight games. There were a couple of enforced changes in the forwards, as captain Matt Corby returned at hooker in place of Sam Treadgold and George Bird came into the back row in place of Alex Hammond. The backs were unchanged from the previous week with the returning Tom Corby and Harry Jackson taking up places on the bench.
From the opening whistle the game proved to be a very tight affair between 2 very evenly matched sides - reinforcing the respective third and fourth places in the division. High Wycombe had a very strong set of forwards and looked intent on putting pressure onto the Shipston scrum, but after a tricky couple of set pieces for the Rams' they managed to find parity and their lineout in particular functioned very effectively.
After a couple of penalty misses a piece there was no score in the first half whatsoever, as both sides defended extremely well and never looked like conceding any tries throughout the first period. Chances were limited in threatening positions and most of the half was played out in the middle of the park, so scoring opportunities were few and far between. Despite the lack of score there was still some good rugby played by both sides, but defensive solidarity was the order of the day and the back row of George Cowper, George Bird and Aaron Neal in particular were colossal for the Rams in that respect. Half time 0-0
The second period began largely like the first, with neither side looking likely to get that all important first score. That was until Aaron Neal was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on the Shipston twenty two metre line and the Wycombe fly half had no problem in knocking over the first points of the game, 3-0.
If anything, rather than finding it more difficult with the numerical disadvantage, Shipston actually began to find more of a foothold in the match and started to pierce a couple of tackles in the midfield. Tom Corby was on and brought some much needed directness to the Shipston attack and Isaac Rowles and Rob James were looking threatening with ball in hand. James knocked over a penalty to level the scores up at 3-3 and the rams found themselves camped in and around the high Wycombe twenty two for the next ten minutes or so.
Wave after wave of Shipston attack was negated however by some excellent defense and some poor discipline from the Rams would prove to cost them dearly as they gave away 2 penalties when only 5 metres out from the Wycombe line, letting the home side off the hook.
With only minutes remaining on the clock it looked like the game was going to end 3-3, which might have been a fair reflection of the game, but High Wycombe weren't finished and they mounted one last attack to try and wrestle the initiative. After going close in the corner when their number 8 was hauled down just short of the try line, Wycombe were awarded and attacking scrum just 5 metres from the Shipston line. They chose that opportunity to produce one of the strongest scrums of the match and were able to force the Rams over their own line and touch down for the match winning score! The successful conversion was the last action of a thrilling game and unfortunately for Shipston it meant the end of their proud winning run, High Wycombe taking the spoils 10-3.
With Aylesbury RFC losing the Rams missed out on the opportunity to leapfrog them into second position in the league, but the losing bonus point was still enough for them to reduce the gap to 1 point and consolidate their third place position in the table.
The Shipston MOTM was awarded this week to George Cowper who was absolutely phenomenal in defense all afternoon and put his body on the line time and time again.
The Rams have a week off this Saturday but return to league action on the 7th December when they welcome top of the league Witney RFC to Mayo Road.