Harry Clark's hat-trick inspires Shipston-on-Stour to third straight Southern Counties North victory
SHIPSTON made it three wins on the bounce on Saturday, as they overcame a sluggish first 15 minutes to dominate a committed and hard-working Wallingford to move up to fourth in the table, winning the match 37-7.
There was a league debut for Gilbert Blocksidge who came onto the bench as cover in the back line and there was also a first appearance of the season for Simon Baldwyn in the front row, as he was drafted onto the bench to replace Charlie Hollies-Everett, who unfortunately came down with an illness during the warm-up and couldn’t participate.
With the interruptions during the warm-up and the late changes to the side, Shipston were a bit slow to get going in the first half and Wallingford took full advantage, using a pick and drive close to the breakdown to good effect and dominating possession in the early stages.
The Rams defended resolutely but eventually the line was breached, as the visitors were able to force their way over in the corner to open the scoring for the afternoon. A successful conversion gave Wallingford an early7-0 lead.
Shipston fought back strongly and began to wrestle back the momentum, working some nice phases of rugby down field and getting into some good attacking areas.
Rob James, playing at fly-half with the absence of Robbie Faulkner and Isaac Rowles, kicked two penalties to get the hosts back to within a point.
The Rams spent large parts of the first period deep in the Wallingford half, but were struggling to make the final pass stick in order to get over the line.
There were some nice breaks from the likes of Dan Taylor and Tobi Faulkner, but the end product just wasn’t quite good enough to convert the opportunities into points.
That all changed five minutes before the break, when Shipston were finally able to breach the Wallingford defence and score their first try of the match.
Harry Clark took a pop ball from James and forced his way through three tackles to go over the line and score.
The successful James conversion meant the Rams went in at half-time with a 13-7 lead.
In the second half Shipston carried on from where they left off in the first period and continued to have the better of the territory and possession.
They tightened up their accuracy and the passes that wouldn’t quite stick in the opening exchanges and they looked threatening with every attack.
A break down the left wing saw Taylor and Clark put Matt Daniells into space and he was able to advance towards the Wallingford line.
A last-ditch tackle from the covering full-back prevented Daniells from going over, but he was able to off-load to hooker Thomas Beach, who had run an excellent support line and went crashing over on the corner for his first try for Shipston.
The tough conversion from out wide was missed and Shipston led 18-7.
With Shipston looking increasingly dangerous as the half went on, and Wallingford beginning to tire, the gaps started opening up and the Rams were gaining in confidence.
The third Shipston try of the afternoon came from a defensive scrum on their own 5m line.
James made a break on the right-hand side and set off up the field, with great support from Faulkner and Christian Cummy interchanging nicely to keep the ball alive.
It eventually fell back into Faulkner’s hands on the Wallingford 22 and he was able to race away from the covering defence and score.
The conversion was made and the Rams now led 25-7 with 15 minutes left on the clock.
There was time for two more tries, both from Clark to secure his hat-trick.
Both were extremely well-worked scores, with the side showing excellent handling and support to finish off the chances created.
The final brace of tries pushed the score to 37-7 and the Rams were well deserving of their victory.
The Rams welcome Marlow to Mayo Road on Saturday (2.15pm kick-off).