Frustrating Defeat to Stratford Upon Avon
The final scoreline didn't reflect our performance in significant parts of the game.
With Will Fulton picking up an injury at Swindon Guy Swadling made his debut this season at Fly Half. Nick Carvey returned to Full Back, so Vanavasa Bai moved back to Left Wing. Curran McMillan came back into the Front Row, with Ross Hayworth, Ruairi O'Connor and, a welcome return after a long injury last season, Cameron Denton on the bench.
Stratford started brightly and put us under sustained pressure, which we successfully resisted for 6 minutes until a kick to nowhere over the top took a very unlucky bounce back high over the head, and outstretched arms, of Vanavasa into the path of a somewhat surprised Stratford Back who promptly touch it down. It was also nicely placed for an easy Conversion. 0-7
It took us over 15 minutes to finally get into the visitors half when we earned a penalty for Stratford killing the ball. Tony Lawless struck the ball cleanly from 37m out and put our first points on the board. 3-7
Any thought that we were now underway was soon squashed by a quick response from Stratford 2 minutes later with direct play down the middle of the pitch, ending in a converted Try. 3-14
The next 10 minutes were fairly even, until Shaun Richards' leg got bend badly at the bottom of a ruck - while he was being attended to - we were down to 14 men. Stratford took advantage of the superior numbers and added another converted Try.
On 26 minutes the game already seemed to have slipped away from us, but it heralded a change in the balance of the game and the sniff of a possible comeback.
Finally, we put some sustained pressure on the Stratford defence, and it yielded our first Try of the match, with a nice interchange between Vanavasa, who drew his man, and Nick Gorham, who cantered into the right corner. 8-21 The conversion attempt was tight to the touchline and Tony was unable take the extra points.
Half Time 8-21
We started the second half in the same vein as ending the first, and we definitely looked the brighter side, especially in the forward department.
A very promising attack on the left wing was only stopped by a deliberate knock on, which failed to receive a yellow card, much to the surprise of the home supporters. This was not to be the last time we appeared to be on the wrong end of some very debatable Refereeing decisions in the second half.
Our pack had been more than a match for Stratford in the set piece all match, apart from the line outs, but then neither side had been very consistent with those, and now was no exception. They controlled the maul and pushed the visitors back over 30m before finally forcing a penalty, just 5m short of the Try line. With a 13 point gap we took the option of a scrum, kept the pressure up forcing yet another penalty infringement, and used the free ball to force ourselves over the line. What was surprising was the Referee's reluctance to give use a one man advantage for 10 minutes, Stratford having conceded three penalties in such quick succession. Unfortunately, Tony was unable to take the extra 2 points. 13-21
Just when it looked like we might be starting to make a serious comeback a lapse in concentration allowed Stratford to stay two scores ahead with their Bonus Point Try. 13-26
However, credit to our team, who showed they were not beaten yet, responding with a converted Try. 20-26
The game hung in the balance as we were now within one score. However, this was the closest we were to come, with the last 10 minutes proving to be a bitter pill to swallow. Firstly, Nick Carvey, was yellow carded for supposedly deliberately knocking on. Bearing in mind a similar incident earlier in the game didn't earn a yellow card for Stratford, this seemed a very harsh decision, especially at is was also a lot less clear cut. Down to 14 men, we now struggled to contain Stratford and they ran in 2 more Tries before the final whistle
Final Score 20-37
This result was deeply frustrating as our performance in large parts of this game did not reflect the final score.
With all due respect to the opposition, we have players with the talent to more than match them, but we need to learn quickly that you can't just turn up on the day, without attending training, and expect to get away with it in this league - team work and consistency are the keys to success at this level and that only comes from working together at training, talent alone isn't enough.
1 Eddy Smyth 2 Curran McMillan 3 Chris Clarke 4 Ben Smith 5 Jack Henderson 6 Shaun Richards 7 Max Roberts 8 Ian Thomson 9 Tony Lawless 10 Guy Swadling 11 Nick Gorham 12 George Jafari 13 Howard Mears 14 Vanavasa Bai 15 Nick Carvey
16 Ross Hayworth 17 Ruairi O'Connor 18 Cameron Denton