Stroud Foil Midsomer’s Dreams
Man of the match Sam Hester
This was an outstanding display by Stroud who overcame a beefy Midsomer team through very determined defence and scintillating attacking skills writes Sean Moore.
Stroud opened the score when a trademark long flat pass from Gordon was picked up by Hester who went through the gap and headed for the corner. Just before he was pushed into touch he slipped the ball inside to Sam Leworthy who scored near the posts. Hester converted, 7-0.
The next score followed a powerful forty-metre burst by centre Jake Marsh which led to a lineout. Debutant Ben Stephens won the ball and again, a long flat pass from Gordon was neatly taken by Hester who left the fullback for dead and raced over behind the posts, 14-0.
Stroud continued to impress when they had the ball and Marsh scored the next try following slick interpassing and offloading from Sykes, Hester and Leworthy, 19-0. Winger Jack Young was also involved and he provided the final astute inside pass to Jake Marsh. Young did everything that was asked of him in defence and attack.
Midsomer started their score with a forward catch and drive try and it was clear that they would use the strength of their pack whenever possible, 19-5. Their assault was prolonged but Stroud’s defence and covering were exemplary with veteran Mark Phillips making several vital tackles. Tom Flanagan showed the value of technique and determination when bringing down a player almost twice his size. Stroud’s pack were taking a battering and a further try was inevitable. It came when Midsomer forwards drove over near the corner, 19-13. For a long period of around fifteen minutes Stroud’s backs were deprived of ball and the omens did not look good. Midsomer then scored a further try and conversion which came inevitably from their forward power, bringing the score to 19-20 at half time.
Early in the second half a scrum in the Stroud 22 saw the Midsomer scrum half sell a dummy and speed over under the posts. The conversion was inexplicably missed, 19-25. Stroud dug deep and their forwards began to get the measure of their opponents, some of whom were finding the pace of the game quite draining. Stroud restructured their scrummaging and this led to more possession for the backs. A critical period followed with captain Joe Hoyle gaining a crucial score: good driving play by the forwards led to Dan Gordon making a searing break and he cleverly offloaded (à la Sonny Bill Williams) to the supporting Hoyle who, showing impressive speed and fitness, managed to get to the line in a forty-metre dash, closely pursued by two defenders. Hester converted, 26-25.
The large crowd were enjoying a superb contest with the game poised on a knife-edge. The next try would be a candidate for ‘try of the season’. Hester fielded a long kick just outside his 22: he feinted to kick, then burst past three players with a mixture of speed and swerve. He rapidly made ground down the touch, saw that no one was at home and kicked ahead. Hester then showed his footballing background by neatly coaxing the ball over the line before diving to secure the try. He can be forgiven for missing the conversion, 31-25.
Midsomer posted their intentions by reducing the lead with a penalty goal, 31-28. Over the next few minutes Midsomer pounded the Stroud line but a bruised and battered defence raised their game and repelled attack after attack. Josh Stratton and Rob Higgins were particularly prominent at this stage. Captain Hoyle scored the critical points after Gordon had made another long break leaving Hoyle with a lengthy run to the line. Again, he just made it, despite defenders clipping his heels on two occasions. Hester converted, 38-28.
Hester put the icing on the cake and became eligible for jug buying when, following excellent interpassing, he stretched over to complete his hat trick. He converted, bringing the score to 45-28. No one can disagree with him being made ‘Man of the Match’ but this result was built very much on a superb team effort and the coaches should be well pleased with this performance.