Great Game Played at a Cracking Pace
This five-point victory was well celebrated by players and coaches who fully realized the importance of this result.
Both sides were committed to an adventurous running game and the standard of play was excellent. Stroud had a very low error count and some of their fingertip passing was a delight to watch writes Sean Moore. The half-backs Gordon and Marsh ensured that the outside players had plenty of ball to work with.
Stroud were always in the lead but often by a narrow margin. Their forwards were up against a meaty well-drilled unit but held their own in all phases. The scrum proved effective as did the lineout and in the loose the ageless Mark Phillips, Aussie Bob and Rob Higgins were always competitive at the breakdown. The front five made many dents in the Bristolians defence and impact players such as Phil Fruin and Josh Stratton gained valuable hard yards. The driving maul was particularly well-organized and gained lots of critical ground.
The first points came after a penalty kick to the corner led to a well-rehearsed catch and drive move and Dan Gordon eventually touched down near the corner. Sam Hester converted, 0-7. Bristolians retaliated with an incisive try by their speedy centre. Sam Leworthy was prominent with his hard tackling and he made several long breaks, offloading well in the tackle when necessary.
Carl Ranscombe on the wing made several long, telling breaks and linked up well with Pete Sykes who had a busy game on the other wing. Stroud’s next try followed a breathtaking mazy run by Sam Hester who, from some sixty yards, beat seven or eight players to score near the posts. He scored another one shortly after following smooth interpassing with Kurtis Herbert who converted, 10-19. Herbert had an outstanding game and was always able to make ground with his strong, direct running. Bristolians fought back and, at the interval, were trailing 17-19.
Following the break the quick-witted Gordon intercepted and this led to a cracking try by Kurtis Herbert near the posts. He converted, 17-26.
The high tempo game and the fierce collisions led to many stoppages and replacements but this did not weaken Stroud’s efforts. Tommy Watts moved to prop and proved immovable in a solid front row where Tom Warner relished the physical contact.
Stroud increased the lead when a long move instigated by a forceful Leworthy break saw him score near the posts and Herbert converted, 17-33. Herbert also added a penalty goal, 17-36.
Stroud realized that there would be a backlash and Bristolians upped their efforts and clawed their way back to 31-36. Stroud were on the back foot after James Bashford was yellow carded but clever ball retention and patience when going through the phases saw Stroud see out the tense final five minutes. They protected their narrow lead with a series of time sapping scrums, denying Old Bristolians the ball.