Stratford stretched their winning run in the league to 13 games despite being frustrated for most of the game by a spirited Pinley side.
With competition for places in the 1st team squad at an all-time high, Stratford picked a strong team for the trip to North Coventry.
The game could not have started better, as from the Pinley kick off Stratford hit two forward drives, before putting former KES boy Josh Pope through a hole in the defence who ran 50 metres beating several defenders before putting Jack Young in under the posts, Nath Geekie adding the extras. At this point the travelling supporters must have been thinking cricket score, bit it was not to be as that was the only score of the entire half.
Stratford simply could not look after the ball, regularly spilling possession, knocking the ball on and being turned over. This in spite of the fact that Pinley struggled to maintain their discipline, having two players sin binned during the half.
The coaching staff tried to simplify the message for their players, focusing on territory and building tempo through the phases.
Again, Stratford started the half brightly, a series of powerful drives, most notably from 2nd rows Gus Whightman and Colin Markham, allowed the destructive winger Charlie Powell to force his way over in the corner to open up a 12 – nil lead.
The next 15 minutes will go down as possibly the most frustrating period of the season for the club. Pinley used a penalty to kick deep into the Stratford 22 for a lineout which they attempted to drive over the Stratford try-line. Stratford’s defence and work-rate has been outstanding all season so they were confident that they would repel the attack, however, egged on by a vociferous home crowd the referee saw fit to first of sin-bin skipper Matt Cook for offside, less than two minutes later, vice-captain Nathan Geekie followed suit for the same offence. Still Stratford kept them out, but more bad news was to come for loose forward Tom Von who was shown yellow for a seat belt tackle.
Now down to 12 men Stratford continued to make the Pinley offence work to cross the line, but it was just too much to ask, as eventually Pinley crossed for a converted try. With all the momentum in the direction of Pinley, as well as a 3-man advantage Pinley got over one more time to level the scores at 12-12.
Stratford finished this period with something to show for their efforts as experienced Jack Young rolled back the years to slot his first goal of the season and take the lead again at 12-15. The dinging and donging continued as Pinley levelled to make it 15-15.
As Stratford returned to a full compliment, they became more assured and a penalty to the corner just 10 metres out gave young Prop Tom Stanley the opportunity to drive over, aided by fellow prop Liam Vose. Again, Geekie converted.
Stratford then went in search for the 4th try to earn them a bonus point, but continued to be frustrated as it was Pinley that finished the strongest scoring a further penalty to bring them within 7 of Stratford and gain a losing bonus point. Stratford remain top of Midlands 2 West (South), though they allowed the chasing pack to catch up a point on them.
Stratford’s 2nd team scored more than 100 points for the second game in succession putting Newbold on Avon to the sword 0-102.
Next week the 1st XV go to Evesham, whilst the 2nd team will enter the pool for a friendly fixture.