Stratford open their Midlands One West account with victory over Ludlow
Midlands One West
STRATFORD started their Midlands One West campaign exactly where they finished off in Midlands Two West (South), dominating in defence and seizing their opportunities in attack to run out 29-10 winners over Ludlow on Saturday.
The Pearcecroft men have now not lost a competitive match since October 2019 and a league fixture since September of the same year.
A warm, dry, and windless day in the wonderful setting of Ludlow RFC served up a real treat for a large crowd that had been starved of rugby during the last 20 months.
Ludlow kicked off and Stratford made the worst possible start by knocking on trying to collect. A penalty from the resulting scrum led to some sustained pressure, which Stratford were able to repel until eventually giving away a penalty that the Ludlow No. 10 converted to take an early 3-0 lead.
Stratford responded immediately with their own period of pressure, scoring two penalties to go 6-3 up and take a lead that they would never lose.
Though Ludlow had long periods of possession, Stratford’s defence was able to close down any threats relatively comfortably with defensive captains Sam Kirby and Gus Wightman leading the line from the front to regularly win the battle of the gain line.
When the Black and Whites did get the ball, they looked very threatening, twice veteran full-back and man of the match Jo Cook made breaks that were nearly converted into tries.
Finally, on around 30 minutes, a well-timed pass from captain Nathan Geekie put Dan Dunmore in next to the posts and with Geekie’s conversion and a further penalty, Stratford opened up a 16-3 lead.
As half-time approached Stratford got on the wrong side of the penalty count and with the last play of the half Ludlow brought themselves back into the game with their own converted try, leaving it 16-10 at half-time.
A good start to the second half saw Geekie score a further penalty to take the score to 19-10.
Much of the rest of the half was a cagey affair, veteran prop James Hancock rolled back the years to replace youngster Liam Vose who had picked up an ankle injury, Chris Cathcart did a sterling job at No. 8 to shore up a retreating scrum and Colin Markham and Dan Kirby ensured a solid line-out, from which attacks were launched with regularity.
Stratford were happy to manage the game seeking territory at every opportunity.
As the half wore on Ludlow were forced to risk more and more, allowing Stratford to play on the break.
Strong defence from debutant Sam James and hooker Michael Dawes to turn the ball over gave space for centre Gwilym Davis to put flying winger Charlie Powell through a gap 30 metres out. He never looked back and scored in the corner to put Stratford 24-10 up.
Ludlow continued to chase the game hoping for at least a bonus point, but Stratford won a series of penalties to get themselves into the opposition 22.
A series of quick phases against a tiring pack and scrum half Max Haines fired a pass straight to Ianto Davis on the wing who showed incredible strength to barge over his opposite man and seal the game 29-10.
Meanwhile, the 2nd XV also got off to a strong start despite playing much of the game with 13 men against a Claverdon squad featuring a mixture of first send second team players.
Jordan Baker scored both tries for Stratford in the 14-14 draw.
This Saturday sees the return of competitive rugby to Pearcecroft, with both men’s teams playing at home.
The 1st XV entertain Malvern while the 2nd XV take on Spartans (Midlands).
Stratford are always looking for and welcoming of new players of any level. Training takes place at 7.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Pearecroft.
Visit www.pitchero.com/clubs/stratforduponavon for more information and contact details.