Stow on the Wold 28 - Reading 19
Stow on the Wold RFC was bathed in glorious Autumn sunshine on Saturday as the first team hosted an ardent team from Reading. There was some trepidation amongst the stalwart home supporters who were unsure whether the home side could build some much-needed momentum after the brilliant away win at Marlow. They need not have worried. The whistle blew and within the first 5 minutes Angus Hayward broke the line from full back and linked well with his younger brother Archie who come off his wing. He was brought down just 10 meters from the oppositions goal line, but the supporting players recycled the ball well and 3 well-structured phases later, new prop, Tom Spinney charged over from close quarters for a 7-0 lead. From the restart Archi Hayward repaid the compliment by smashing through 2 defenders to link up with Angus who once again almost made the line. However, the Reading defenders recycled the ball illegally in front of the posts and Jake Collett stepped up to make it 10-0 after just 9 minutes.
A shell-shocked Reading started to win good possession and had a great spell where they repeatedly put the home side under pressure. Their scrum was totally dominate and from one mighty surge, the visiting No8 picked up and linked well with his left wing who was to cause problems all day. He showed some classy steps and pace to break down the wing. It looked a score all the way, but James Holmes had other ideas and with the angle on his side, put in a try saving tackle. Reading kept the pressure up by winning the resultant line out. Stow held out but were repeatedly offending at the breakdown and in quick succession the fine Jim Wood left the field with a shoulder injury and Rich Huggett was yellow carded because of the penalty count. Reading made the numbers count and 2 mins later their blind-side flanker crossed the line for their first score which was converted.
Stow were under the cosh from the restart and the Referee penalised Archie Hayward was pulling back a player off the ball - correct call, but the yellow card that accompanied the penalty was probably harsh and Stow were now down to 13 players. However, Reading failed to capitalise and after knocking the ball on in the tackle, Stow went the length of the pitch in probably the best play of the match. After multiple phases of controlled possession from their own 22 to the opposition goal line, they were rewarded with Lewis Chapman striding out from 1 meter to cross the line for an excellent try. The conversion was missed, but against the play and down to 13 men, Stow were up 15-7. The home side was full of confidence and then turned the ball over again and Harry Gaden was brought down after a charging run down the middle of the of the park. Reading were penalised for not releasing, so Jake Collett made amends by slotting another 3 points.
Sadly, Stow switched off from the restart and still down to 14 men, allowed a sloppy try to break through the middle that was converted in front of the posts. The home team led 18-14 at the break.
After the restart, Reading were far more composed and enjoyed a period of good possession, but the home defence held firm despite being pushed off their own ball in the scrum on 2 occasions. The visitors were once again unable to convert the possession and dominance to points, then against the run of play Jake Collet kicked long to the far corner and with the defending winger waiting for the ball to roll out, Angus Hayward raced to touch it down under his nose for an excellent opportunist try. The home side was growing in confidence and dealt with the Reading attacks well and following a heated exchange, Stow kicked a penalty to the corner. The massively improved line out had functioned well all day and Craig Voisey crossed the line for the bonus point try after a well-executed line out and driving maul.
The final 20 minutes was largely contested in the Stow 22, but Reading were still unable to capitalise and with time running out and chasing 2 scores, to the surprise of the home supporters, they chose to take what should have been a simple 3 points rather than capitalise on their dominate scrum. It was to prove an error as the kick was missed and they went away without scoring. The visitors were however, successful in their next visit and following a fine cross kick from the Fly Half, they scored out wide to reduce the gap to 9, but still outside of bonus point territory.
Stow closed the game out with some fine, but totally unexpected scrummaging, winning 2 against the head that totally surprised the opposition and despite a 3rd yellow card for home team (Craig Voisey), Stow finished the game off with smart rugby for fine win to make it 4 out 5 for the season and a top 3 league position.