Following a tough season playing teams as far afield as Wiltshire and Hampshire in their previous campaign, Stratford have moved back to the midlands and dropped down a level and are relishing the prospect of reigniting old local rivalries this year. With a new coaching set up led by former first team captain Rich Pepperell and new captain Matt Cook, the squad have been building through the summer with a mantra of enjoyment first. Training sessions have seen the guys mix with the ladies touch team, get out of Pearcecroft by taking sessions to the rec and the welcombe hills and participate in a training weekend of fitness on the Malvern Hills and team building activities with the University of Worcester.
Following a convincing win over Woodrush earlier in the month, Stratford knew Stow would be a far sterner test and so it proved. With the game split into 4 x 20 minute periods, Stratford started the game brightly trying to release a very talented backline that included the reforming of the Jack Young and Sam Kirby centre partnership, new vice-captain Nathan Geekie at full back and try machine Dan Whitby on the wing. Stratford were by far the more physical team but too often spilled possession by trying to play too quickly without solid foundations.
Despite this, Stratford were first to cross the whitewash with last seasons skipper Jo Cook finishing off a nice move from the wing. The unconverted score had a negative effect on Stratford as they switched off at the restart, gave away a penalty and had a lapse in defence allowing Stow to score under the posts for an easy conversion. In the second quarter Stratford started to use their forwards to dominate physically punching holes closer to the ruck. In this period new boys Harry Barnard and Zak McMorran were introduced in the back row and centres respectively. The former showing real strength and power on both sides of the ball and the latter combining well with fly half Gwilym Davis to regularly get across the gain line.
Stratford made their dominance show scoring through number 8 Dave Pritchard after some neat footwork. More changes were made at halftime with Simon Greenwood, Alex Ballentine and James Hancock coming in to the pack, Frank May replacing Toby Jones and scrum half, John Duncan to full back and Josh Schram and Jack Lawson-Wood on the wings.
The third period was more of stop start affair but it didn’t stop Duncan bagging a brace, showing impressive speed and strength to get both in the right corner. Stow also managed a good try with a break following a quick turnover which though excellently chased down by Schram and McMorran, the ball was recycled quickly for Stow to get around the hard-working Geoff Dyson and score again under the posts. The score now 22-14.
Stratford continues to control the game through the 4th quarter and were rewarded with a fifth try, this time from scrum half May following some astounding work from the impressive combination of second rowers Angus Wightman and Michael Dawes and flankers Jonny Smith and Dan Dunmore, Geekie converted the extras. With a full time score 29-14 Stratford learned a lot from the run out.
On Saturday 7th Stratford entertain Balsall and Berkswell in the Warwickshire Shield, kick off 3pm with a past players lunch that should see the team well supported. Stratford RFC have 2 senior men’s team that play regularly throughout the season and a more social vets/3rd team that play monthly.
There is also a ladies touch team that train on Tuesdays and play on Sundays as well as a thriving mini and junior section that play and train on Sunday’s. If you are interested, please make contact through the website. https://www.pitchero.com/clubs/stratforduponavon