Stratford edged out by one point at Malvern
STRATFORD put in a determined performance but were narrowly beaten 21-20 by Malvern at the weekend as their search for a first win of the new Regional Two West Midlands season goes on.
The Black and Whites were forced into changes following injuries to both flanker Dom Wan and club captain Dan Kirby, as well as a host of other unavailabilities.
This provided first XV debuts for prop Archie Small and lock Zak Amond – both products of the youth set-up.
Stratford started the game in a spirited fashion from the kick-off with crunching tackles putting Malvern immediately under pressure, however, a couple of penalties in the opening exchanges allowed the home side some breathing room.
Inside five minutes Stratford suffered a blow when stand-in Skipper Tom Stanley was sent to the sin bin for an alleged trip.
A series of great defensive efforts repelled waves of Malvern attacks until a counter-attack led to a try in the corner just before Stanley’s return to the field.
Once back up to a full compliment, Stratford showed their power at the set piece.
A dominant scrummage provided the platform for Stratford to strike back almost immediately through a first-phase move involving almost the entire backline and finished by the evergreen Jo Cook out wide to make it 5-5.
Stratford began to settle into the game and looked to be getting the better of the exchanges but a breakdown in communications in midfield saw the Malvern stand-off pick a gap and sprint through to score unopposed under the posts.
The conversion was successful and following some even exchanges in the middle third, the half drew to a close.
Just two minutes after the restart the Pearcecroft men found themselves on the wrong side of the law once again, conceding a penalty in front of the posts about 30 yards out which was ably slotted by the Malvern No. 10.
Straight from the resulting kick-off Stratford responded.
Charlie Powell fielded a loose Malvern clearance and launched an incisive run into the opposition half, with quick recycling and deft hands creating space on the opposite wing for veteran Dan Whitby to show his experience, beating multiple players on his way to the try line.
Nathan Geekie provided the extras and Stratford found themselves just three points adrift of the lead.
A few minutes later Stratford turned down the chance of an easy three points to level the scores, opting for a line-out deep in the Malvern 22 but following several good phases, a gap appeared for centre Geekie to skip through and touch down.
His try edged Stratford into a 17-15 lead, despite the conversion drifting wide.
In the following five minutes both sides exchanged penalties, Malvern striking first and then Geekie bringing the score to 20-18 in Stratford's favour.
With 15 minutes remaining, further Stratford indiscipline allowed the Malvern fly-half to continue his metronomic form, slotting a long-range penalty to nose the home side back in front.
The visitors continued to press hard to try and get back in front and they looked on course for a last-minute winner until the ball was knocked on and the match came to a close.
Stratford host Old Halesonians on Saturday (3pm kick-off).