Captain urges in-form Stratford to stay ruthless
SKIPPER Matt Cook has urged Stratford to continue with their ruthless nature in both defence and attack going into this weekend’s derby clash away at Leamington.
The Black and Whites, fresh from a two-week break, returned to Midlands Two West (South) action on Saturday and ran out comfortable 52-0 victors over Silhillians to move up to third in the table.
Such was the dominant nature of the display in the difficult conditions, Cook believed the performance should be the one to replicate going forward.
And with Leamington losing 11-6 at Evesham on Saturday, Cook knows they will be keen to bounce back and get one over a Stratford side looking for a fifth league win on the spin.
With a derby atmosphere in prospect, the Black and Whites skipper has called on Stratford to show no fear and keep doing what they have been doing since the start of the season.
“All I would like to see from the players is more of the same,” Cook told the Herald.
“Leamington is probably our closest derby in this league and we know they’re going to be up for the game given how they lost to Evesham at the weekend.
“It’s important we just stick to our game plan and continue to do what we do well.
"I think Saturday’s victory over Silhillians was a demonstration of how to perform in difficult conditions.
“We know it won’t be as wet this weekend, but it will still be cold and windy, so we have to perform like we did against Silhillians to keep the ball rolling.
“What’s been particularly pleasing is the ruthless nature of the defence and attack, and I’d like to see that continue.”
Despite some very cold and wet conditions, Stratford played with skill, pace and tempo to run in eight unanswered tries in a display of rugby that completely blitzed Silhillians away.
The Black and Whites dominated from the off and from the first Silhillians clearance, full-back Jo Cook counter-attacked by beating two defenders before setting winger Dan Whitby free to slide in under the posts.
The conversion was successful.
Stratford were soon back in the visitors’ 20m zone and a line-out led to a series of pick and drives, with impressive ball carrier Gus Whitman barraging over for the first of his two tries.
Stratford continued to dominate the opponents in all aspects of play.
No.8 Si Greenwood was impressive again and his output was made possible by the work rate of back row partners Jonny Smith and Dan Dunmore as well as hooker Ben Cole, who was playing his 50th game for the first team.
Further first-half tries from fly half Nathan Geekie and Ben Cole saw Stratford go into the break 26-0 up.
The first half wasn’t all plain sailing, though, as Stratford lost Greenwood to a large laceration above his eye, that later required a trip to A&E at Warwick Hospital and nine stitches, and the heavy ball carrying second row Geoff Dyson to a shoulder injury.
Stratford’s 18-man squad, however, was full of quality and on came John Bruns and veteran Dave Pritchard to maintain the pressure being applied.
The coaching staff urged Stratford to keep doing what they were doing.
With Greenwood coming off, inside centre Jack Young stepped up his ball carrying game, punching holes in the Silhillians defence at will.
One such foray led to a kick ahead that was followed up by centre partner Sam Kirby to score a lovely sliding try.
A further try from scrum half Will Matthews essentially put the contest to bed, but Stratford did not let up.
Pritchard scored from a pick up from the back of the scrum and Whitman scored his second from a textbook line-out move straight from the training ground.
Geekie, who controlled the game extremely well from No.10, kicked five of the eight conversions in the poor conditions.
“We’re not doing too badly right now and everybody seems to be having a good time,” said Cook.
“Considering how poor the conditions were, the performance was pretty impressive and it was our ruthless defence and clinical attack which stood out.
“Having had the two weeks off, the lads came through really strong and it was probably the same team, barring one or two changes, that played against Evesham before the game was abandoned.
“Everybody put in a consistent shift and I was really pleased with how the lads responded to that two-week mini break in the middle of the season.”
It was an amazing weekend all-round for the senior men’s section of Stratford. On a cold Friday night, Alex Ballentine’s veterans team won the inaugural Midlands Quadrilateral Festival, beating Shottery 7-5, Old Leamingtonians Vets 20-0 and drawing 12-12 with the Coventry Ambulance Service.
Then, while the first team were putting Silhillians to the sword, the second team were doing likewise to Old Coventrians in the Warwickshire 2nd XV Cup.
Four tries from captain Callum Cook and two from Warwick Cox saw Stratford run in ten tries to seal a spot in the quarter-finals in December with a 62-5 win.