Stroud produce a great 100 minutes of entertainment!
By joshua stratton
This result was well deserved for a Stroud team that dug deep against strong opposition
A fine dry day and a firm pitch at Fromehall, welcomed our visitors, who had proved tough opposition as recently as last April when they recorded a convincing win over the home side. Stroud were determined to avenge this result but more importantly continue their hugely positive start to this season.
A late change to the match day squad was required with Sam Hester unfortunately being unable to take up his usual Full Back position due to an Achilles injury.
Squad: Dan Smith, Phil Fruin, Josh Stratton, Ben Stephens, James Bashford, Rob Higgins, Regan Herbert, Phil Middlemiss, Joe Hoyle, Dan Gordon, Sam Leworthy, Harry Foote, Kurtis Herbert, Peter Sykes, Jordan Phipps. Replacements: Tom Warner, Tom Flanagan, Lex Brookes.
Early signs were promising for Stroud with both elements of the set piece looking solid. The lineout began well with Bashford, Stephens and Higgins securing possession. Quick ball off the top enabled Gordon to spread the play wide early with Kurtis Herbert hitting the first of many excellent lines throughout the afternoon. Close range drives from Smith and Stratton took play deeper into the Chew 22 before Hoyle found Regan Herbert , who powered through 3 tacklers before stretching to score the opening try. Kurtis Herbert converted. 7-0.
Chew were also looking to put width on the ball and regularly looked to feed their powerful wing. During a prolonged period of possession, he saw the ball on a number of occasions but was well marshalled by his opposite number Leworthy. Stroud’s line speed was particularly impressive in this period of the game with Foote and Kurtis Herbert leading the defensive line and allowing the Chew centres very little time and space.
Stroud were able to force a number of turnovers with Higgins, Fruin and Gordon all showing great strength in holding runners up. Chew continued to press but a turnover close to the line allowed Gordon to clear well up field. Despite being starved of possession, Stroud continued to look dangerous with ball in hand. A solid scrummage gave Middlemiss to pick and make good ground before offloading to Hoyle, who found Sykes out wide. Quick ruck ball and a change in direction allowed Gordon to show great vision to find Leworthy , who burst into the 22. Another good clear-out and swift distribution from Hoyle freed the backs and allowed Kurtis Herbert to surge over out wide. 12-0.
Chew continued to press but some excellent scrambling defence from Sykes and Phipps kept the line intact. Stroud at times were under pressure but strong carries from Stratton, Regan Herbert and Foote regularly regained their forward momentum. From one Foote surge, a sharp interchange of passes between Gordon and Phipps freed Hoyle, whose astute kick ahead forced the Chew defence into retreat. Only a last ditch intervention stopped Hoyle from regaining his own kick.
With the front row of Smith, Fruin and Stratton solid, possession was won from the scrum allowing the ball to be spread wide with Sykes being stopped just short. As play was again switched Gordon found Kurtis Herbert cutting a powerful line and scything through the Chew defence to score under the posts. He converted his own score to extend the lead to 19-0.
Given a much lower proportion of possession, the scoreline was all to Stroud’s credit but Chew did not lie down. From the deep kick off the ball was secured and cleared well by Gordon but from the resultant halfway lineout Chew launched a well worked move. An inside pass found the blindside winger hitting the line and he showed excellent pace to run a wide arc and outstrip the covering defence to score in the corner. 19-5.
This was a wakeup call for Stroud, who showed great resolve and were soon back on the attack. With Smith and Stephens carrying strongly close in and Stratton, Fruin and Higgins working wider off Gordon, Stroud were able to carry play back into Chew territory. Another strong Regan Herbert surge continued the move. Hoyle linked with Middlemiss , who sucked in more defenders before recycled ball allowed Hoyle and Phipps to free Sykes to run in in the corner. 24-5.
Half Time Stroud 24Chew Valley 5
Despite the scoreline, Stroud knew this game was far from over and a tough second half would lie ahead of them. Little did they know it would be a marathon of a half - lasting almost 55 minutes due to a number of injuries. Warner replaced Bashford with Stratton dropping back into the second row, while Flanagan replaced Herbert on the Flank.
The second half started in a similar vein to much of the first period with Chew having the lion’s share of possession. Stroud’s defence was exemplary with Stephens and Flanagan causing disruption around the fringes and the centre partnership of Foote and Herbert continuing to bar the way out wider. One strong Foote tackle enabled Middlemiss to force a turnover deep within the Stroud 22. Showing confidence and awareness Stroud ran the ball with Gordon finding Kurtis Herbert once again surging through the opposition defence. Making good ground he found Hoyle with an inside pass before a further offload narrowly failed to find Phipps. Unfortunately, during the course of this offload Hoyle suffered an injury, which stopped play for 10 minutes. After assessment from both physio teams he was able to be helped from the field. Phipps moved up to Scrum Half from Full Back, where he was replaced by Brookes.
Stroud seemed to cope better after the pause in play with possession being retained for multiple phases. Warner and Stratton carried strongly and Phipps showed great speed of the mark with a number of snipes around the ruck. This pressure resulted in a penalty, which Gordon kicked to the corner. Stephens secured possession from another accurate Smith throw. Herbert threatened to break the line again as the ball was spread wide but was hauled down just short of the line. Phipps fed Gordon, who spotted a gap and stepped through 2 tacklers before scoring. 29-5.
Chew as ever were keen to continue to find their physical winger. As the ball went wide, the Stroud defence again marshalled him well with Leworthy again showing his defensive qualities. More solid tackling from Brookes and Phipps kept the line intact – although one breakdown resulted in a harsh yellow card for Phipps.
Chew exploited their numerical advantage when after a number of phases the scrum half went blind and released the fly half to make the most of an overlap to score. 29-10.
Strong words behind the posts ensured Stroud would continue to press throughout the final 20 minutes. Great work from Fruin and Higgins at the breakdown forced another turnover, which allowed Brookes to be released on the left wing. Making significant ground he then found Herbert on the inside. Surging through, he was only stopped by a solid tackle from the full back. Showing discipline Stroud secured the ball well and allowed the forwards to continue the momentum. Middlemiss and Smith drove on before Gordon found Fruin with a clever inside pass for the hooker to drive over under the posts. Sykes converted 36-10.
The end to end nature of the game continued as Chew pressed again. However, once again Stroud’s defence proved up to the task with Flanagan, Middlemiss and Foote making great first up tackles (Foote spilling blood for the cause!). With Stroud in possession, the forwards and backs combined well producing continuity throughout a number of phases. More swift handling resulted in a Sykes run and interchange of passes with Brookes and Phipps. On this rare occasion, the ball went free and Chew were able to clear. Leworthy however was able to regather and set off on a powerful run, making great use of his trade mark hand-off to make great ground. With the forwards still working hard, quick recycling allowed Gordon to free the backs once again. This time the final pass went to ground but Captain Foote was able to regather and surge through the scattered Chew defence for a well-deserved try. 41-10.
Full Time Stroud 41Chew Valley 10
Man of the Match:
Harry Foote (Strong Carries, Strong Tackling, Strong Leadership – a complete performance).
This result was well deserved for a Stroud team that dug deep against strong opposition and showed tremendous commitment and skill from 1-18. Although the backs are handling with accuracy and running in the tries, praise should not be deflected from the forward pack whose set piece and close quarter work is laying the foundations for the excellent start to the season. With a great attitude and strong team ethos coupled with individual skills, Stroud undoubtedly have the potential to keeping pushing at the top of the Western Counties Table.
Next Fixture : Away v Chipping Sodbury Saturday 22nd September KO 3PM