80 minutes of Engrossing Entertainment Ends Even.
By joshua stratton
Although Stroud were unable to close out the victory, this should not detract from an excellent all round performance and 3 more valuable league points
Fromehall witnessed a contender for game of the season on a fine afternoon for rugby. With a drying pitch, lessening breeze and two sides that not only are closely positioned in the table but also enjoy playing expansive rugby everything was set for a feast of entertainment and the 80 minutes that followed certainly did not disappoint.
Stroud: 1 Charlie Foote 2 Matt Hunt 3 Josh Stratton 4 James Bashford 5 Ben Stephens 6 Rob Reid 7 Phil Fruin 8 Regan Herbert 9 Joe Hoyle 10 Dan Gordon 11 Sam Leworthy 12 Harry Foote (Capt) 13 Kurtis Herbert 14 Pete Sykes 15 Sam Hester 16 Sam Davies 17 Rob Higgins 18 Lex Brookes.
Richians kicked off and Reid secured possession with the first of a number of solid takes. Early phases were dominated by forward carries with Stephens and Regan Herbert making early ground before Stratton and Reid took play into Richians territory. With Hoyle’s distribution as sharp as ever, Stroud looked to open up play to Gordon but Richians quick line speed closed down any early space for centres Foote and Herbert. One early low-chop tackle on Herbert forced a turnover and allowed Richians to clear the early pressure.
Hoyle collected the clearing kick and fed Leworthy, who took play back towards the Richians 22 with a typically powerful run. Early promise however could not be converted into points even though there were many positives for Stroud. Regan Herbert again showed how destructive he could be, regularly making ground and committing multiple defenders to the tackle providing a great target for his fellow forwards to clear out. With Reid causing disruption at the line out, Hoyle was able to pick up loose ball and find Gordon, who spread the ball wide to Kurtis Herbert to power on. An excellent offload in the tackle to Leworthy and interchange with Regan Herbert really built momentum until the final pass went to ground. The scrummage looked solid from the early stages with Charlie Foote, Hunt and Stratton not only cementing home possession but gaining the ascendancy on Richians ball. Despite this ascendancy, the game was scoreless in the first 15 minutes.
The pressure in the scrummage finally gained its reward when more strong work forced the Richians Number 8 to pick up but his offload went to ground under pressure from Fruin and was snapped up by Regan Herbert. A great clear-out from Fruin provided quick ball for Hoyle to feed Gordon, who surged over to open the scoring. 5-0.
Stroud continued on the front foot with another excellent take from Reid and carry from Fruin setting the base for Gordon spreading the play wide from deep within their own half. Good hands under pressure from Kurtis Herbert and Hester freed Leworthy, who kicked ahead. An excellent chase from Hoyle forced a turnover and a penalty for Stroud. Buoyed by their early success in the scrum, Stroud refused the opportunity of a kick at goal and opted for the scrum. Stroud went through a number of phases of play but Richians defence was extremely well organised and eventually forced a turnover, which Stroud compounded with some indiscipline at the breakdown allowing Richians to kick deep into Stroud territory for the first time. Stroud showed that their defence was up to the mark with a text book tackle by Harry Foote allowing Hoyle to force a turnover. Defences appeared to be on top in the first quarter and despite both sides showing invention and willingness to move the ball scoring opportunities were limited.
Another infringement at the breakdown by Stroud however enabled Richians to kick for the corner. A well-rehearsed catch and drive allowed the Richians forwards to power over to level the score. 5-5.
Worse was to follow for Stroud as Leworthy received a yellow card for an aerial challenge from the kick off. Richians were now controlling the possession with short range pick and goes being inter-dispersed with some wider play, which constantly changed the direction of play. From one wider phase, their centre found a gap and dummied an inside ball before running in out wide. 5-10.
Stroud were soon back in possession with Hester collecting a kick through and linking well with Hoyle. Regan Herbert was again back on the charge and was providing so much momentum it was Richians this time, who were forced into a penalty at the breakdown. The kick unfortunately drifted wide. Stroud however were now controlling the ball well with Gordon and Hester distributing well The inside ball was providing success with Regan Herbert, Bashford and Stephens all making good ground. Richians received a yellow card for a tip tackle on Stephens as Stroud continued to apply pressure.
A number of penalties were forced due to secure phase play and every time Stroud showed a positive inclination and took the scrum to continue the attack. Charlie Foote, Regan Herbert, Stratton and Stephens were all carrying well before Gordon spread the ball wider where Hester’s inside pass found Harry Foote, who was held up on the line. Stroud eventually gained reward for all their pressure as another strike from Hunt at the scrum gave quick ball to Hoyle, who fed Gordon, who found Leworthy on the inside charging into the 22. Great clear-out work from Harry Foote and Kurtis Herbert put the ball on a plate for Hoyle and Gordon to release Hester, who showed typically evasive footwork and pace to round his opposite number to score. 10-10.
The Richians Number 8 was now becoming a bigger force in the game, regularly making ground and dragging multiple defenders into the tackle. Forcing a penalty, Richians kicked for the corner and the 8 peeled off the drive surging towards the line. Excellent work from Fruin, Regan Herbert and Gordon initially held up the drive but the ball was smuggled to a fellow Richains forward, who surged over whilst the Stroud defence reacted to an unusually ambiguous call from the official. 10-15.
Half Time Stroud 10Old Richians 15
Richians were quick out of the blocks in the second half and gained field position from an early penalty. Again, they showed willingness to spread the ball wide and regularly change direction of play. After a number of phases, a well weighted kick over the top found their right winger out-stripping the cover defence to touch down in the corner. 10-20.
Stroud dominated the next period with forwards continuing to carry strongly. Stratton, Stephens and Reid were getting through huge amounts of work whilst Hunt and Harry Foote were also breaking the gain line in wider channels. It was however a rare loose ball that led to the next score. Fruin bravely secured a missed place pass and allowed Hoyle to feed Foote, who found Sykes coming off the right wing to create the extra man. A well –timed pass released Hester to cruise in. He converted his own try to narrow the gap. 17-20.
Stroud’s defence continued to be tested but solid work from Hunt, Fruin and Harry Foote forced an error. From the ensuing scrum a pick and drive from Regan Herbert took the play fully 40m into the Richians half. Further carries from Hunt and Sykes continued momentum. Another scrummage again provided a great platform for a Herbert carry before fine link play from Reid freed Hoyle and Gordon to show quick hands to release Kurtis Herbert to acrobatically dive over in the corner, touching down just before being forced into touch. A tremendous touch line conversion from Hester followed. 24-20.
Although Stroud held the ascendancy in the scrum, Richians were securing their own lineout and pressurising Stroud ball. One line out win and more expansive play from their backs freed their winger, who made ground before finding the centre on his inside. He seemed destined to score but a last ditch tackle from Kurtis Herbert forced the ball to be spilled over the line. Richians continued to press and soon almost crossed again this time only to be thwarted by Hoyle, who made up a huge amount of ground to make another last ditch tackle.
Higgins replaced Regan Herbert and was soon involved in the thick of the action. A great lineout drive from a Bashford take took play towards the Richians 22. Higgins continued the forward drive before the backs spread the ball wide. Despite the final pass going to ground, Sykes was able to collect the bouncing ball and round his man to score in the corner. 29-20.
Richians were never going to lie down and yet another drive from their Number 8 created momentum for their fly half to exploit with another clever kick over the top. An unfortunate bounce took the ball away from the Stroud defence and enabled Richians to collect and score. A well struck conversion reduced the gap to two points. 29-27.
Davies replaced Charlie Foote in the front row and showed great technique in the tackle, chopping down opponents much bigger than him. Richians were looking to attack from deep but forward drives were repelled by solid tackling from Davies, Hunt and Fruin. With no joy up the middle, Richians looked to spread the ball wider but excellent pressure from Foote and Herbert in the centres forced a loose pass that was gratefully picked off by Sykes, who scooted in at the corner. 34-27.
Richians were continuing to push and attacked from deep. With their lineout continuing to function efficiently possession was in ready supply. From one win, the ball went into midfield, where Stroud were penalised for a high tackle. Pushing Stroud back into their own 22, Richians pushed for a potentially equalising score.
Great disruption from Bashford and Stephens enabled to Stroud to regain possession and drive away from their line. A resulting penalty seemed to be the release from pressure that Stroud needed but an unfortunate miscued kick gave possession back to Richians. Again being prepared to stretch play from one side of the field to the other, Richians pushed and pushed. One final burst from their Number 8 broke the defensive line before goods hands resulted in a try in the far corner. An incredible touch line conversion levelled the scores. 34-34.
Stroud kicked off in a last ditch effort to gain possession. A secure take however enabled Richians to clear to touch and end a pulsating game that had seen both teams play with endeavour, ambition and huge array of all round skills.
Full Time Stroud 34Old Richians 34
Although Stroud were unable to close out the victory, this should not detract from an excellent all round performance and 3 more valuable league points. Again the scrummage was dominant but particularly impressive was the continuity and ball retention Stroud showed in building multiple phases throughout the game.
This game was tremendous entertainment for a sizeable Fromehall crowd, who surely hope for more of the same next week for the visit of Wells - with the only change of course being a Stroud victory.