Slow start and eventual fighting comeback brings nail biting victory
By russell vale
Stroud U15s dig their way out of a big hole for 3rd victory of the season.
St Brendans were our first Bristol opponents of the season. We had beaten them 69-22 last season but they had strengthened over the summer and a much closer game was expected. They had a similar club ethos to Stroud and welcomed players of any ability and were a nice bunch of players, coaches and parents. Stroud were missing some players – they had turned up in France on a school history trip expecting a game on the battlefields of the Somme – with Chris’ fixture schedule it was an easy error to make, and still closer than some of the away games we have this season…..
Little did we know there was a battle royal to be served up at Sommehall – sorry Fromehall – by two teams intent on playing expansive attacking rugby in a humdinger of a game on a glorious morning.
Forwards: Lucas, Liam, Bailey, Darion, Jedd, Harry, Stoner, Laurie
Backs: Flash, Will, Dave, Keyan, Arthur, Nibbles, Alex
Subs: Orgy, Bernie, Euan, Ryan, Jamie
Stroud kicked off and were quickly into the game with a strong tackle from Jedd. St Brendans (aka SB) were quick to recycle the ball and Arthur on the wing was quickly called into action with a strong tackle. Good breakdown work from Lucas and Harry got a turnover. Jedd went on a pounding run, then Harry, Bailey, Stoner and Darion smashed some holes in the SB defence. Stroud had an attacking chance but Darion lost the ball in contact as SB’s forwards manned up to the battles ahead. SB won the scrum restart on their 22 and quickly attacked right through their pacy backs. Good ball handling released their winger who sped down the wing but Alex was there in typical last-man style to stop the score. SB were great in support though and quickly recycled the ball and went left. As another chance beckoned the ball got dropped and an opportunistic Will picked it up and sprinted down the right wing for 60 yards to score under the posts. An easy kick for a 7-0 lead. Would this cause Stroud to settle into their normal attacking game?
Jedd caught the SB kickoff and made some good yards. Liam barrelled through for more tough yards. Quick Flash ball to Will and a diagonal kick went unrewarded as the ball bounced out. SB did well with their lifting and won the lineout. More SB backs moves and they found a gap but Alex hauled down the attacker again. The ball went loose and Stroud turned defence into attack with flanker Harry making a good run. The next few minutes the teams alternated big runs and tackles. Jedd and Keyan with the pick of the tackles. SB were inventive in the backs with side steps galore and also intelligent kicking – one just missing the try line. Stroud won the lineout on their own 5 and in typical attacking fashion a Will-Dave crash ball released Dave on a long run. Normally this would be a 95 yard try but SB’s did a great job to force him out wide and then tackle him on their 22. Pacy attacking and pacy defending in equal measures. Stroud knew they were in for a fight today.
SB defended well and forced a turnover. Alex had another tackle to make on half way and as soon as he’d got back to his feet he held up the next attacker and with support from half the forwards Stroud won the maul. A Stroud scrum restart was wasted when the backs knocked on. The next few minutes was chaos rugby – both teams making errors as chances beckoned. Stroud won a scrum against the head with a big forward push. Will’s kick was charged down but Stroud recovered the loose ball and Dave went up the left wing but again a great tackle was waiting for him. SB knew he was the danger man and they had done a great job of controlling him so far. Their reward for an excellent game plan was a lineout, quick backs move left, then cut back inside and score under the posts as Stroud missed a few tackles. It was a well deserved try for their constant attacking and skills shifting the ball from wing to wing to find gaps to exploit. 7-7 was the score.
SB returned the kickoff but were penalised at the breakdown. Quick tap penalty and Liam and Darion combined well. Bailey was the next forward to punish the SB forwards with a powerful run. Keyan was unleashed down the left wing but forced back inside. Jedd went Llama running – quite apt with his haircut. Then the ball was out to the backs with Dave, Alex and Arthur making good yards down the right flank. SB were very competitive at the breakdown and forced another turnover on their 22. They kicked long and their pacy winger hacked the ball on amongst the diving Stroud players and recovered the ball to score a well deserved 80 yard try. The kick from wide was missed but SB led 12-7.
SB returned the next kickoff well, until Stoner knocked the ball loose. Stroud errored themselves though and knocked on. SB won the scrum and attacked left. Arthur did well to snuff out the attack with a rip tackle. Darion took the loose ball but was turned over himself. SB tried the kick game again but this time Alex chased back and covered it well close to his own line. Stroud tried to attack from deep but another careless knockon gave SB an attacking scrum on Stroud 5 that they duly won. Stroud were great in defence though and SB worked the ball through forwards and backs and couldn’t break the Stroud defence. Liam won the ball at the breakdown and Will went into attack mode. The ball came out left and Nibbles broke free. An accidental crossing though stopped the attack and SB had a scrum restart on the 22.
SB won the scrum and attacked left. As the Stroud defence came up quickly SB deftly gruber kicked the ball behind. Their centre was unlucky to knockon as he tried to gather the ball by the try line. Stroud won the scrum 5 and Will kicked the ball to relieve the pressure. SB won their 22 lineout though and attacked left. This time they kept the ball in hand and their left winger threatened to score but Alex brought him down but a great offload on the floor to a well positioned support runner was rewarded with SB’s 3rd try in the left corner. The kick was missed but SB’s were well worth their 3 tries and 17-7 lead and were teaching Stroud a lesson in all aspects of the game. The half time whistle went to give Stroud a chance to reorganise.
Half Time: Stroud 7 – 17 St Brendans
Thinking of the rest of the team overseas – now on the Normandy beaches – coach Samak went into his infamous Winston Churchill mode and gave an uplifting speech. It had worked at Minch last season and was definitely needed today. He handed out the shovels and pick axes to the players. Would the players respond and dig themselves out of the trenches or would they retreat under more well directed enemy fire?
SB kicked off and Liam caught the ball well under pressure. Lucas went on a fine run forcing SB to be penalised. A quick tap penalty set Keyan down the right. More stout defence and Stroud improvised and went in opposite direction. Alex, Dave and Harry quickly made up some ground. SB were again penalised. This time the tap penalty 10 yards out went to crash ball expert Dave who didn’t even pretend to avoid the tacklers. He went into Rhino mode and went through the defenders to force the ball over the try line close to the left wing. Will’s kick was narrowly missed but the all important 1st score had gone to Stroud to close to 17-12.
The coaches relaxed. Stroud were back to their ‘A’ game. Now to finish the job…. SB kicked off perfectly and the ball bounced on the 10 and they recovered it well. They quickly attacked right and had scored another try before you could say “Sucker punch”. The wide kick was missed but SB were showing they were a force to be reckoned with and would give as good as they got, if not better. Stroud were definitely still the 2nd best team on the pitch with 25 minutes left to save themselves.
SB returned the kickoff strongly and worked an attacking position on the right. As the try line beckoned they knocked on though. Will saw an attacking option and kicked long. SB’s recovered well but Arthur was quick to tackle. More alternating attacking moves by both teams eventually ended up with Keyan sprinting down the right wing but again SB covered well and tackled him into touch on their 22. They won the lineout and went to kick the ball but Will charged it down. A frantic battle for the loose ball ended with SB being penalised. Will took a quick tap penalty and a long pass right to Arthur saw him score in the right corner. Another difficult kick missed but Stroud were back within 5 at 22-17.
Before you could say “Sucker Punch” SB were back in the lead by 10 points again. They kicked off. Jamie did well to catch and run but was forced into touch. SB won the lineout and attacked left. Stroud scrambled back to the ruck but SB saw their chance and went back right and scored in the corner after a few missed tackles. 27-17 was their lead now and Stroud were running out of time. Forget the shovels lads you need some ladders and ropes to get out of this hole…..
Will saw a gap and kicked off long. A great kick chase by Dave and clearout work at the breakdown by Euan and Orgy won Stroud a penalty. They tapped left and Keyan barrelled his way over the try line by the posts. A good conversion and now it was 27-24 to SB.
Bailey was on kickoff return duties next. Keyan took on the attack but was quickly closed down but a good pass to accelerating Flash unleashed our winger down the touchline. He was tackled well on the SB 22 who were showing immense resolve to hold onto their lead. It was all to no avail though as Ryan at scrumhalf unleashed another backs move and eventually Keyan forced his way over the line. Another good kick and Stroud had squeezed back into the lead at 31-27.
The coaches were trying to work out how to defend the next SB attack as they were bound to score again based on the passion and skill they had shown so far. We needed have worried though because Laurie caught the ball and made good yardage. SB were penalised and another quick tap penalty to Dave released him down the right wing. Another last gasp tackle denied him a score though but Keyan was supporting well though and took the inside pass and scored under the posts to give Stroud a 38-27 lead.
SB kicked off and Will returned it. Then Harry attacked with the ball. SB stole the ball at the ruck though and attacked left – this time one of their long passes went to ground and Keyan picked it up and out sprinted all their backs to score a 60 yard try under the posts. Will kicked the conversion and Stroud were now in control at 45-27 but only thanks to 3 long runs by our centre pairing. As they came to the side for oxygen, replacement lungs, Red Bull and Mars Bars the coaches tried to work out how to combat SB next attack.
In typical inventive fashion SB did a gruber kick off. Liam was well prepared and ran it back into the teeth of the SB defence. Eventually Stroud knocked on. SB won the scrum restart and attacked right. They looked to have found a gap back inside but Will intercepted the pass. SB were fighting all the way to the end though and forced the next turnover. Euan and Alex were on tackle duty again but it just slowed down the inevitable. More good SB hands from wing to wing forced a gap that they exploited well and scored in the right corner and had enough time to run it under the posts for another well deserved try. A good kick made it an 11 point Stroud lead. The full time whistle went though and Stroud had eeked out a victory against tough opposition. Stroud had won by one more try and better conversion kick ratio.
Full Time: Stroud 45 – 34 St Brendans
A team debrief was held and coach Churchill collected the shovels and picks back in again. The team had used them well to escape the hole with a devastating 3 try burst with 15 minutes left to play. I get the feeling with the quality of the opposition we have ahead of us this season we will need them again but that’s 3 games on the trot where we have come back strongly in the final 15 minutes to beat quality opposition. Special mention to Flash for playing through his arm injury and losing blood for Stroud rugby. I am sure he’ll give us another tasteful posting on Instagram as he shows his team mates the state of his war wounds……
St Brendans were great opponents and our hardest game of the season so far. Our boys will certainly know they’ve been in a tough battle Monday morning when they wake up and stretch their aching limbs. We look forward to playing them again and they have come on leaps and bounds since the game at theirs last season so that bodes well for future competitive fixtures.
Onto the clubhouse and copious helpings of pasta and bolognaise sauce with garlic bread were the reward for both sets of players. Many thanks to the Tidey’s for leading the catering crew – even more impressive when you realise Mr T was about 500 miles away in France – he probably watched the game live with his Mums Facebook live stream……..