Shipston claimed their second win of the season over Stow RFC and in doing so moved themselves up to fourth in the division - 1 point behind third placed Marlow RFC - with a dominant display over their local rivals. The Rams travelled over with a strong squad, despite missing both vice captains in Aaron Neal and Harry Jackson along with some other notable absentees in Josh Lewis and George Cowper from a run of recent strong performances. After a good week of training though the side were ready and chomping at the bit to get going when kick off finally came around.
Playing into a steady breeze in the first half, Shipston were keen to set a marker down with a strong defensive display and they did exactly that in the opening exchanges. The midfield of Dan Taylor and Luke Hammond, along with the back row of Clark, Hammond and Wilcock were outstanding in defense, taking away the opposition space and putting in a succession of big hits around the break down to prevent Stow from getting much front foot ball. The scrum was also an area in which the Rams had real dominance, driving the hosts pack back at a relentless rate and causing problems for the back line. It has to be said, that despite going backwards all afternoon in the scrum, Stow did very well to retain as much of the possession as they did, with their number 8 doing some excellent work to tidy up at the base.
When Shipston had the ball in hand they looked threatening, creating overlaps and crashing some big runners up the middle to create a solid platform for the rest of the backs to operate. The first try was on the board inside the first 15 minutes and it was a well executed score. After a couple of phases of possession the ball was spun wide to the right and Taylor chipped the ball through the onrushing defence, leaving Chris Cummy to sprint round his opposite winger and touch down for the opening score. The kick from out wide was a difficult one in the conditions and so the try remained unconverted, Shipston into a 0-5 lead.
Stow had a couple of bright spells in the first period, making a dashing break on the right wing and gaining yards into the Shipston twenty-two, only to be thwarted by the concession of a penalty at the breakdown, coughing up the chance to get their first points on the board. For the majority of the half though it was the visitors who were enjoying the best spells, looking threatening with ball in hand and solid when defense was called upon. The Rams really should've racked up more points in the first half, missing a couple of kicks to touch from penalties in good positions and just failing to convert the chances when required, but playing against the breeze they were reasonable content with the 0-5 lead at the break.
The second half began much the same as the first did, with Shipston on the front foot and looking much the more dominant side. The forwards were continuing to dominate at the scrum, with James Pither coming on and continuing the excellent work at loose head after replacing the veteran, Simon Baldwyn at half time. Thomas Page was on for Charlie Hollies-Everett in the second row and he quickly set about getting his hands on the ball and making inroads into the Stow defensive line whenever possible, using his bulk to get the Rams over the gain line.
The second try for Shipston came about from the scrum dominance. After making their way deep into the Stow half they were awarded an attacking scrum eight metres from the Stow try line. The pack powered forward, inching closer to the line, before number 8, Alex Hammond picked up from the base and powered his way over the line. The conversion was much simpler this time around and Rob James slotted it calmly to extend the lead to 0-12.
Shipston were awarded a penalty minutes later in the Stow half, which again James nudged over to push the lead out to 0-15 and the result was beginning to look assured as the minutes ticked by. The third Rams' try came from another attacking scrum in a similar position to the second, with the forwards purring at the possibility of another set piece to get stuck in to. Shipston got a nudge on again and picked up at the base of the scrum, but this time it was Page at the back (having swapped with Hammond) who went crashing over the line for the third try of the afternoon. Another successful conversion made the scoreline 0-22 with 15 minutes remaining.
The rest of the match was a real tussle, with some huge defensive hits coming in from both sides. George Wilcock was forced off the field for the Rams after receiving a knock to the head and skipper, Matt Corby was taken off after injuring his neck. The reshuffle caused a bit of disruption to the Shipston forwards and Stow began to look better with the ball in hand, creating more chances of their own and getting some front foot ball. Their plight was improved again when Shipston's Ben Summers was shown a yellow card for killing the ball at the breakdown and the hosts made the most of their numerical advantage to create an overlap in the far corner and go over for their first score of the afternoon, 7-22.
The Rams pushed hard for the fourth try to gain the bonus pint but it wasn't forthcoming and the game finished with the score at 7-22 to Shipston, no more than they deserved.
There were some excellent individual performances for the Rams, with Will Hammond controlling the game excellently at scrum half and the midfield of James, Taylor and Luke Hammond again functioning very well. The forwards were dominant from the first whistle and this allowed Harry Clark and George Minogue to carry the ball very well and they were both outstanding in defense. The MOTM this week however goes to Alex Hammond who had a phenomenal game at number 8. He defended superbly and carried the ball strongly all afternoon and was well worth his try!
Shipston welcome High Wycombe RFC to Mayo Road on Saturday, looking for a reverse of the scores from their previous encounter when they went down 10-3 in a really tight affair near the capital. It is also the clubs second VP's day of the season, so we hope to see many of you down the club on Saturday!