Derby Day Honours to Stroud in a battle all the way
By russell vale
Stroud U15s get back to winning ways vs arch rivals and schoolmates Minch
It was Derby Day at Fromehall. The visitors were Minch who had narrowly lost 12-5 to Stroud in the County Cup semi-final last season. They were bound to be fired up for this and a chance to get revenge. There was no cup final place at stake this time round but playful bragging rights at school were almost as important so Stroud would need to bring their “A” game after suffering their 1st loss of the season last weekend at Bromsgrove.
Stroud were still in the midst of a winger injury crisis with Billy, Josh, Ryan and Nibbles unavailable so Stroud would have to re-organise their backline again.
Forwards: Lucas, Liam, Bailey, Mr T, Jedd, Harry, Stoner, Laurie
Backs: Hilly, Will, Dave, Keyan, Arthur, Flash, Alex
Subs: Orgy, Bernie, Euan, Haydn, Callum, Darion, Fin, New Archie, Jamie
Stroud kicked off and were quickly put under pressure with Minch moving the ball left and right at pace. It needed a big tackle to slow them down and fire up the parents and players alike. Up stepped Stoner and knocked the Minch player backwards at force. Ouch shouted the parents as the vibrations reverberated around the pitch. Minch to their credit kept the ball alive well though through more attacking phases. Dave was next with a big tackle. Still Minch kept coming though. Eventually Stroud forced a turnover and Will kicked to relieve the pressure but Minch ran it back well and attacked the right wing. Eventually they knocked on though and Stroud had chance to re-organise themselves.
Stroud had a scrum on their own 22 that they won with a great shove. The ball was quickly lost though in contact and Minch went on the attack and repeatedly pounded the line. Lucas and Jedd showed great positioning to keep them out. Next it was Liam and Harry putting their body in harms way to keep out the marauding Minch forwards. Eventually they knocked on and Stroud had a scrum on their own 5 that they duly won but the backs knocked on when trying to run it out from deep. Minch had a scrum 10 yards out but the Stroud forwards put in a great shove against the head and the Minch front row ended up behind the #8 after the scrum collapsed backwards at 20mph! The scrum was reset and Minch won it. They attacked the line but an accidental offside gave Stroud a penalty escape and Will kicked long for touch.
Stroud's lineout was going to be a powerful weapon and source of clean ball all game thanks to great lifting, accurate throwing, and clean catching by Laurie. 1st lineout was won. Backs attack. Minch offside. Another kick for touch. Another lineout win from Laurie. Keyan goes right. Ruck. Dave back to the left. Ruck. Bailey smash-mouth run. Another Stroud penalty and kick for touch at 5 yard line. Another Laurie lineout win from Liam's good throw. Hilly quickly passed the ball out to the backs. Keyan looked to be held up but somehow wriggled free and dived over the line close to the posts. Will’s kick was a formality and Stroud led 7-0 – but losing in the territory and possession stats. We were winning the tackle count handsomely though!
Minch kicked off and Mr T ran it back well. Somehow Minch came away with the ball but were held up in a maul so Stroud had a scrum restart. Liam won the hooking battle but the backs were unable to exploit the space. Dave’s crash ball was snuffed out repeatedly all game – but the Minch organisation to try and take Dave out of the game would leave space outside that Stroud would exploit in future attacks. Another ruck battle and Stroud keeping Minch at bay. Liam went barrelling through a few tackles. The ball came out to Keyan who fed winger Flash who was eventually hauled down deep in the Minch half.
Minch had a scrum restart that they won and attacked right. Their inventive attacking lines were putting pressure on the Stroud defenders. Their pacy winger sprung through a gap and sprinted towards the Stroud try line with just Alex to beat. Bang! Alex 1 – Winger 0. It was never in doubt. Alex had plenty of practice mid-week in school cup victory vs Tommies and won 3 one-on-ones to save tries so this was just a formality. Winger on the ground and a big scrabble for the loose ball at the resultant ruck. Harry came up trumps and powered away on a 40 metre run. His Dad would be proud – at his age his legs were only good for 10 metres! Harry could see shadows closing in on him. Was it his favourite Bromsgrove ref waving his yellow cards for an obscure breakdown penalty? Nope it was the covering tacklers converging. Harry did so well to keep the ball as he was tackled to ground. Minch were penalised at the ruck and Will kicked for touch at the Minch 22.
Lineout time. Laurie time. More clean ball for the backs to feast upon. The ball came left but it was knocked on in fierce contact. Minch were well organised in their defending at the breakdown and in the back line. Minch won their scrum and their big centre went down the blindside. New Archie had just walked onto the pitch. He bravely dived at the attackers feet and toppled him. Jenks prepared to run onto the pitch to pick up what was left of Archie, but he was already up and raring to go again. Tackling coach Philips on Friday night was just warm up to taking down the big Minch centre. Train as you mean to play the game is our motto and Archie does it in spades! Minch jacked the ball back to the right but an errant pass went to ground. Captain Will snaffled it up and sprinted for touch but a last gasp tackle took him out of play on the Minch 5. Minch’s lineout throw went wrong and that man Laurie was ready to catch and drive. He didn’t care who's lineout throws he caught! He was held up just short but this set an excellent platform for Darion to go Rhino and power over the try line. A difficult kick waited but it just gave Will a chance to show his excellent kicking technique as the ball cleared the crossbar from out wide. 14-0 to the boys in blue.
Minch kicked off and Liam did a great catch under pressure. He ended up 5 metres behind the catch point but kept the ball in Stroud control. The backs attacked left. Dave and Keyan had no space to exploit with quick Minch tackling so the ball came out left on a long pass to Alex who saw a gap and went for it and then tried to release Arthur but the pass sailed into touch. Minch won the lineout on halfway and attacked left. Archie was into tap tackle mode now to nullify their fast winger. Minch still controlled the ball though and came back to the right. It was eventually lost in contact as Arthur jarred it looser. Will picked up the ball and made some space out of nothing. Dave sprinted up the left flank realising it was easier as there were smaller bodies to avoid vs big Minch centres. He tiptoed up the touchline with half the Minch parents baying for touch. It was OK we had a professional linesman with Coach Phillips keeping up with play. Good job he had eagle eyesight. On 2nd thoughts he was down to 1 eye as the other was superglued (open or closed?) after headbutt contact in Senior game yesterday.
Play was allowed to continue and Dave cut back inside to aim for the posts. The shout of “Nadia, Nadia” echoed from coach Samak's throat. Normally its “Gas, Gas”. Perhaps it was his chest infection distorting his voice? Perhaps it was Northern interpretation of “Petrol, Petrol”? A post match debrief enlightened us that it was “Nadia, Nadia” we had heard. Mark making reference to his favourite Olympic gymnast Nadia Comăneci and her ability to balance perfectly on the beam – just as Dave had danced his way along a similarly narrow gap. Anyway back to the game….. as tacklers converged on him he unselfishly passed to Archie who scored under the posts on his debut. Easy kick and 21-0 to Stroud.
Another Minch kickoff and again Liam on kick return duties. This time Stroud knocked it on and Minch had a scrum restart on the Stroud 22. They cleverly positioned their backs inside and then jacked back to sprint down the left blindside and score a well deserved try in the corner. The kick was missed but Stroud knew that Minch were going to do everything possible to keep coming back at Stroud.
Will kicked off and Fin showed excellent technique to recover the perfectly placed kickoff. Bailey went on a powerful Llama run. Minch were penalised and Stroud took a quick tap penalty right. Keyan and Alex made good ground. Winger Archie was set loose and he squeezed into the corner but was unable to touch the ball down cleanly. Back for an off-side penalty and Stroud did a tap penalty left. Dave tried to push his way through but Minch marshalled him well. Stroud eventually knocked on and the half time whistle blew.
Half Time: Stroud 21 – 5 Minch
More subs were taken at the half and Stroud aimed to start fast. Bernie ran back the kickoff and Minch were penalised at the breakdown. Will kicked the penalty to touch. This time Orgy’s accurate throwing found Mr Lineout – aka Laurie – and Flash now at scrum half set the backs attacking. Minch kept them in check though and a few minutes of alternating possession forced Stroud back into their own 22. Eventually Minch were awarded a lineout that they won and drove towards the Stroud line. Stroud were penalised for pulling it down so Minch kicked for lineout again on the Stroud 5. This time Minch attacked wide through the backs but more stout defending held them out close to the line. Back though for another penalty infringement. This time Minch kept it simple and from their lineout win they drove for the line and scored another try. Another tough kick from wide was missed but Minch were back in this at 21-10.
Wills perfect kickoff was again won by winger Fin. They got revenge though and turned over the ball at the breakdown. Bernie and Euan both put in good tackles on the big Minch forwards. Minch were showing good technique to keep the ball alive through multiple phases. Stroud were being forced deeper back into their own half. More desperate tackling from Fin and Alex just slowed down the inevitable though. Minch managed to keep the ball alive and their left winger had a clear run to the line. Another difficult kick was missed but it was now a 1 score game. Stroud winning 21-15 but momentum swinging towards Minch.
Stroud kicked off and Minch ran it back strongly. Dave was there with a big tackle. Minch kept the ball alive well though and released their backs with a move to the right. Somehow Laurie managed to get back and put in a try saving tackle by the touchline. Perhaps he just stays there and waits for lineout throws or close-by people to tackle? Stroud turned the ball over and Will went to kick but it was charged down. Stroud won their lineout – that man Laurie again. Dave kicked from his own try line and Minch recovered it well and ran it back to the left. Archie put in another good tackle but Stroud were penalised at the ruck. Minch kicked for the Stroud 5 and won their lineout but were kept out as they pounded the line. Good tackles by Callum and Haydn kept them at bay. Minch squeezed over the line but were held up. Back for a Minch scrum on 5. More pressure on the Stroud line. Another Stoner stinger – aka tackle. Minch were then penalised and Stroud breathed a big sigh of relief. Will kicked the penalty long, just missed touch but Minch knocked on so Stroud had a scrum restart on halfway. They duly won it and attacked right. Archie looked to be set free down the wing but a great cover tackle forced him into touch as he lit the afterburners.
Minch won their lineout and did a strong drive but Stroud managed to hold them up with Mr T and Jedd holding them up in the maul. Stroud had a scrum restart that they won and the backs attacked left with Dave and Keyan upto the Minch 22. Good support from the forwards won the clearout and Laurie picked up and ran down the left. He was tackled into touch at the Minch 5. Minch won their lineout and bravely ran it out – Stroud style – from under the posts. They then kicked for space but Fin recovered it well. Stroud were penalised at the breakdown and Minch kicked for touch. They won their lineout and drove to the line. Stroud held them up but Minch adapted and quickly threw the ball out. Their centres were quickly tackled but the ball was kept alive and their winger squeezed over the line. Another conversion was missed and Stroud were hanging on 21-20.
Minch caught their kickoff and tried to run it out. Good defensive pressure from Darion and Orgy forced Minch to kick. Fin recovered it well and attacked back. Euan had a good run upto half way. Callum and Lucas secured good ball with big clearouts. Will went for Plan B and kicked over the top of the uprushing Minch defensive line into space. The ball bounced all over the place and who should be there to recover it but Will himself! He jacked the ball back to the left and scored in the corner. Cursing his inability to run it under the posts his conversion from wide just drifted wide and Stroud were still within touching distance at 26-21.
Minch kicked off and recovered their own kick but the player was forced into touch. Laurie duly won the lineout but the ball was knocked on as the backs took over. Minch won their scrum but more great breakdown work from Harry forced a turnover. Darion took on the ball and powered through 20 metres of tacklers. Dave got the ball and kicked into space but Minch ran the ball back well. More turnover work this time by Mr T gave Stroud another attacking chance. Euan had a good run, then Keyan went left and was forced into touch. Minch won their lineout and attacked back into the Stroud half. Gallows humour from their parents urged their kids to run it under the posts if they broke the Stroud line because a converted try was the only way they were going to win. Arthur wouldn’t let them get that close. He did a typical rip tackle and Stroud were back in charge. The ball ended up with Keyan and he found a crease to attack. As he drifted right he faked a pass and the defender fell for it and he cut back to the left and outran the last defender to score under the posts. Will kicked the conversion and the final whistle blew.
Full Time: Stroud 33 – 20 Minch
Stroud had sneaked a victory. Although they had led all the way it had been a real battle in the 2nd half and they did well to turn the momentum back to us in last 10 minutes and win by 5 tries to 4 – with a big dose of help from Will’s conversions. Minch had played really well throughout the game to push our team all the way. Great lineout work from Laurie and a typically strong Stroud scrum were good foundations for the backs to exploit the few gaps that Minch gave them. Dave hadn’t scored but kindly asked Keyan if he could borrow one of his tries. We all know what Keyan's terse answer to that was! Archie had played well on his Stroud debut and showed what pace he has ready to unleash on other teams in the future.
Both teams clapped each other off the pitch and retreated to the clubhouse for Chilli and Hotdogs. They shared war wounds and stories from the trenches. I am sure that the banter will continue next week at school and DPP training – perhaps Nadia, sorry Dave, will have invented a try for himself by then…..
After beating the “Noisy Neighbours” the evening was a quiet affair. Mainly because some of the players had doubled up and had a footy cup game in the afternoon and didn’t have an ounce of energy left to burn. Note to parents – if your child is still giving you lots of grief in the afternoon and evening because rugby isn’t tiring them out enough then sign them up for the “Stu Evans Football Academy” and he will run them into the ground for 2 hours more! For those that care (not many!) the footballers won 5-2 so double victory for them – but quite fun watching Dave trying to manage his dwindling energy reserves in the 2nd half. He blamed Rick’s chilli for repeating on him everytime he had a chance on goal.
We look forward to going upto Minch later in the season for another high quality titanic battle and defending the “Pride of the Five Valleys” trophy that we have owned for the last 3 seasons.
Next week its Cinderford at home – another tough game. We know they will be up for this. Who can forget Wills drop goal from out wide as time expired to beat Cinderford in the Cup. Lets hope for another dramatic re-run next weekend……