Derby day dawns for rugby rivals following league shuffle
NEIGHBOURS Stratford and Shipston lock horns on the rugby field this week for a derby clash that has been years in the making.
The two sides had been in different divisions until the RFU’s reorganisation in the summer saw them both placed in Regional Two Midlands West and Saturday’s match at Pearcecroft is sure to attract a big crowd.
Both Stratford and Shipston have had a tough start to the season. Stratford’s only win came back at the start of September when they whitewashed visitors Ludlow 38-0 while the Rams won their opening two games – at home to Worcester and Cheltenham.
Things have not gone to plan since then though and Stratford go into the match fresh from a 13-8 defeat at second-placed Siilhillians.
Dave Pritchard returned at scrum-half, Toby Tuszynski was back in his more natural position in the back row and exciting prospect Oli Thorneywork made his debut from the bench.
The game started off with Sils going through multiple phases and retaining possession with Stratford’s defence standing strong and handling the pressure well. However, the deadlock was finally broken with Stratford conceding a penalty and the Sil’s kicker did the honours to hand them a 3-0 lead.
Stratford’s bad luck this season continued when inspirational skipper Tom Stanley picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Michael Dawes midway through the first half.
Sils continuing to retain possession and their pressure finally resulted in a converted try but this just seemed to spark the visitors into life with some fluent attacking play and strong carries from Dawes and second row Sam James resulting in the hosts conceding a penalty which stand-in skipper Dan Whitby duly converted to make it 10-3 at half time.
The second half started with both teams looking to impose and take control of the game but Stratford’s injury woes came to the fore once again with stalwart Geoff Dyson and Tuszynski having to be replaced resulting in some tactical changes.
Strong defensive efforts from both sides was the story of the rest of the game and for Stratford, great work at the breakdown from flanker Jonny Smith and lock James Walton ensured Sils didn’t capitalize on their lead.
The only try of the half was scored by the visitors when a pick and go by debutant Thorneywork saw the ball recycled quickly allowing James to crash over.
With a missed conversion, Stratford were now in touching distance but the tables were when late pressure resulted in the hosts kicking a last minute penalty.
Shipston lost 14-21 at home to league leaders Newent on Saturday having led 14-8 at the break.
The visitors took the lead through an early penalty but the Rams responded with prop George Minogue touching down from a line-out catch and drive, Rob James
Some excellent defending kept the visitors out until a sustained attack saw them squeeze over in the
corner for an unconverted try.
But in the closing stages of the half, a loose ball popped out of a maul and speedy Shipston winger Harry Clark picked up and raced over for a converted try under the posts.
That was as good as it got for the Rams though who lost centre Ben Harris to a yellow card as Newent bagged a second converted try and a brace of penalties.