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Stratford fail to hang on to early advantage

Ludlow 24 Stratford 19

AT the fourth time of asking, Stratford finally made the journey to Ludlow with their Regional Two Midlands West game being played on what seemed a pretty decent pitch considering the troubles the Shropshire club had had with flooding and frost on the previous occasions, reports Gareth Rees.

Stratford started well and were able to apply pressure when Jake Lowe caught the Ludlow nine unaware and won Stratford possession back from a Ludlow scrum. The kick deep was returned to touch and Stratford built from there.

With a penalty centre field, they advanced into the Ludlow 22 and then, from a line-out, a five-metre drive drew in the Ludlow defenders and when the ball came out to the left, Charlie Powell scored.

Stratford’s Bron Koziel looks to barge through the Ludlow line. Photo: Trevor Patchett
Stratford’s Bron Koziel looks to barge through the Ludlow line. Photo: Trevor Patchett

Defending deep in their 22 after the restart, Stratford gave away a couple of penalties allowing Ludlow within a few metres of their line. With two further penalties Ludlow opted for the scrum but each time were unable to break through and the visitors were finally able to clear.

Stratford’s second try came after a Nathan Geekie clearance from his own half. The unusual bounce of the ball caught out the Ludlow full-back and although Tom Houlahan was unable to gather, Zak Amond did and after a couple of passes it was Jack Young went in to make it 12-0, Gwil Davies kicking the conversion.

Ludlow hit back after choosing a quick tap after being awarded a penalty in front of the posts, drawing in the Stratford forwards before spreading the ball wide to score in the corner and make it 5-12.

Before the end of the half, Ludlow won the kicking battle for territory and a penalty to touch resulted in a line-out ten metres from Stratford’s right-hand corner which then led to their second score.

That was the end of the scoring in the half but Stratford finished strongly and made their way to in front of Ludlow’s posts only for the referee to penalise them for holding on.

The visitors paid the price for some suspect tackling at the start of the second period which resulted in a Ludlow try just right of the posts which was duly converted to hand the Shropshire side the lead for the first time.

Dan Whitby, back from injury, was almost put through the middle for the visitors but the game continued to ebb away from the Black-and-Whites when, following a collapsed maul, Gus Wightman was sent to the sin bin. The resulting penalty saw the hosts opt for the scrum before spreading the ball left to make the most of the extra man but even though they crossed the whitewash, the ball wasn’t grounded.

This proved only a short reprise for the visitors though as Ludlow tried again and this time the try was awarded with the conversion making it 24-12.

Stratford battled on, slowly reducing the penalty count and appeasing the referee. A quick penalty just outside the 22 took them close before quick ruck speed and a direct flat pass from Geekie found Powell cutting an angle to score his second try of the game and his 16th of the season. The conversion was successful to close the gap to five points.

Stratford’s Nathan Geekie kicks upfield. Photo: Trevor Patchett
Stratford’s Nathan Geekie kicks upfield. Photo: Trevor Patchett

Good work from Whitby saw him break through a few tackles to allow Jacob Kinnaird to sprint down the sideline only being stopped a few metres short.

Now back to 15, Stratford were looking strong, making the most of quick play, and applied the pressure once more before a penalty allowed Ludlow to clear and the visitors were left with a losing bonus point.

On Saturday they are back on home turf when Hereford are the visitors.

Stratford 2nds, with a wonderful mix of senior, veteran and colts players, ran out 57-7 winners against Coventry Welsh in their bid to claim the Warwickshire 2 title.

League rivals Shipston were edged out 26-22 at Malvern and will be looking to bounce back on Saturday when they host Berkswell and Balsall.

Harbury were also in action, winning their Counties Three Midlands West (South) match with Hereford 2nds 32-14 to return them top of the table.

They will be looking for a ninth straight win when they travel to Pershore on Saturday.

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