A Great team effort in difficult conditions.
By joshua stratton
Stroud showed considerable character, skill and determination to see out the final few minutes
Stroud pulled off a stupendous victory over the league leaders Coney Hill who were undefeated until this match. Coney Hill fielded a strong side including several players from Hartpury College, one of whom had played high-level rugby in New Zealand for Crusaders writes Sean Moore. The foundation of Stroud’s win was located in the tight and powerful front five. The front row of Dan Smith, Matt Hunt and Tom Warner, together with the “grunt” of Josh Stratton and Ben Stephens in the second row, ensured that scrum dominance was achieved and several balls were taken against the head. Hard yards were gained by the back row of Mark Phillips, Phil Middlemiss and Rob Higgins and their tackle count was very high. Stroud displayed great concentration and discipline showing the ability to go through phases and picking the right moment to put the ball out. Line out throwing was problematic and a greasy ball was probably a factor.
Behind the pack the threes functioned well, if overshadowed somewhat in attack by the quicksilver Coney Hill backs. Sam Hester had an outstanding game and time and again, his judicious kicks to touch proved invaluable. He also made some scintillating breaks in broken field and linked well with wingers Jack Young and Pete Sykes. Stroud played with focus and determination and took the game to Coney Hill, obviously intent on reversing the embarrassing defeat in Gloucester earlier in the season. Stroud opened the scoring when Hester found touch near the corner and then a good catch and drive followed Ben Stephens’ lineout play. Matt Hunt took the ball at pace but was tackled just short of the line. He was, however, able to pass the ball to Dan Gordon who touched down over the line. Hester converted, 7-0.
Chosen Hill reduced the deficit when their speedy and elusive Kiwi centre tore the defence apart with a slaloming run to score near the posts, 7-5. Centres Harry Foote and Carl Ranscombe were having to put in many critical tackles to stifle Coney Hill’s attacks. Jake Marsh at no.10 varied his play astutely and was particularly skillful with his attacking kicks. From a position in the opposition 22 the pack won the ball and Sam Leworthy, who had come on as a sub, was able to carry out a very smooth catch and pass which set Hester free. He showed considerable pace and determination to go over the line from 20 metres out. He converted, 14-5.
Charlie Foote and Aussie Bob (Rob Reid) came on as subs and added energy and drive to the Stroud pack who were tiring slightly after their monumental efforts. The pack again established good position and Sam Leworthy took the ball at
pace, showing his deceptive strength to twist and turn his way over the line, aided by several of his team mates.
The half time score of 21-5 was full deserved and Coney Hill knew that they had to gain more possession in order to feed their attack happy backs. With limited possession they gradually clawed their way back into the game scoring two converted tries to bring the score to 21-19 with five minutes to go. Stroud showed considerable character, skill and determination to see out the final few minutes and were justifiably elated when the whistle went for full time.