Stroud travelled to Redwell Road looking to carry on their league form and progress to the County Cup Final. After last week’s league fixture was postponed, another sodden pitch greeted Stroud as the rain continued to fall on a grim afternoon.
1 Dan Smith (Captain) 2 Phil Fruin 3 Josh Stratton 4 Ben Stephens 5 Joe Owen 6 Stewart Hendry 7 Regan Herbert 8 Phil Middlemiss 9 Joe Hoyle 10 Dan Gordon 11 Jordan Phipps 12 Sam Leworthy 13 Kurtis Herbert 14 Peter Sykes 15 Sam Hester 16 Tommy Allen 17 Ryan Kibble 18 Jake Marsh. Playing up the slope in the first half, Stroud made a positive start with the back row trio of Hendry, Regan Herbert, Middlemiss all carrying strongly and breaking the advantage line. Working through their phases with further carries from Smith and Stratton, Stroud made their way beyond halfway before Hoyle put in a well weighted box kick. Sykes and Hester challenged but the ball was deemed to have been knocked on just as Stroud appeared to have regained possession. The ensuing scrum however would set the tone for the remainder of the first half as Matson pressure forced Stroud into conceding the first of a number of penalties at the set piece. The Matson lineout was as efficient as their early scrummaging and a dynamic catch and drive took play deep into the Stroud 22, where despite solid first up tackling from Owen and Leworthy, Matson took play within 5m of the line. Stroud competed at the breakdown but were adjudged to have knocked on. Matson continued their dominance in the scrum and earned a penalty try as they drove Stroud back towards their own line. 7-0. Stroud pressured the kick-off through Stephens and Owen and earned a lineout. This area of the set- piece would also prove problematic for Stroud throughout the afternoon and secure possession was at a minimum. With Matson in control of possession, they gave the Stroud defence a thorough work out. Fruin, Owen and Hendry all got through more than their share of tackling. Living off scraps in terms of possession, Stroud were unable to build phases. A tap penalty, which released Hendry was harshly brought back before a kick ahead from Owen was well chased by Hoyle but he was harshly adjudged to have gone off his feet when competing for the ball. An equally harsh yellow card followed and Matson continued to press with a lengthy kick to touch. Allen replaced Stratton in the front row. Another well executed catch and drive was repelled but Stroud were caught offside in front of the posts and Matson extended their lead. 10-0. Half TimeMatson10Stroud0 Stroud began the second half on a more positive note with solid defence from Hendry and the Herbert brothers forcing a turnover, which was immediately distributed into the wider channels by Gordon. Hester gleefully received the ball and took his first opportunity of the afternoon and made a 50m outside break, which was only halted by a last ditch tackle just short of the line. In their haste to pick and drive over, Stroud unfortunately knocked on at the base and relinquished a potential scoring opportunity. Despite the Stroud scrummage being more secure, Matson were able to secure possession and work their way up to their own 22 before another Stroud transgression allowed them to relieve the pressure. Within moments play had moved 90m up the field and only brave work by Phipps securing a kick through prevented Stroud falling further behind. Kurtis Herbert and Hendry carried powerfully before Stroud looked to attack from deep with Hoyle and Gordon spreading play to Hester, who released Sykes on the right wing. Making ground towards halfway he then kicked ahead for Hester to once again show terrific pace and all but beat the covering defence to the touchdown. From the subsequent 22 drop out, Stroud regained possession and again looked to spread the ball wide with great vision from Gordon finding Kurtis Herbert. Good hands released Phipps, who showed typical pace and elusiveness, cleverly cutting back inside two tacklers to cross out wide. Kurtis Herbert converted. 10-7. This score gave Stroud the boost they so sorely needed and with the scrummage now providing secure ball and indeed pressurizing the Matson eight, Stroud were most definitely back in the game. Stratton returned in place of Allen. Regan Herbert, Hendry and Middlemiss all continued to make the hard yards before Hoyle found Owen on the outside. Showing a great turn of pace, the second row broke on the outside and produced a perfectly weighted kick ahead. In a carbon copy of an earlier kick, Hester accelerated past the covering defence but this time was able to touch down just before the ball ran dead. 10-12. With 15 minutes to play Stroud had the lead for the first time but Matson were far from finished. Stroud’s midfield defence was solid and repelled the Matson carriers. Unfortunately, Stroud were unable to control possession as the lineout continued to lack the efficiency of previous games. Giving away a cheap penalty for offside, Stroud were eventually forced back into their own 22. A series of Matson catch and drives were initially held out due to excellent work from Middlemiss and Hendry. Matson continued to press and forced Stroud into conceding a number of penalties, the last of which resulted in a yellow card for Hendry. Capitalising on their numerical advantage, one final Matson catch and drive powered over the line to retake the lead. 15-12. With only minutes left, Matson looked to close the game out with a series of close range pick and goes. Disruption at the breakdown from Smith and Stratton forced a knock on and appeared to have given Stroud one last attacking opportunity. The seven man Stroud scrum secured possession and a wide pass from Gordon released Kurtis Herbert on the left. He was however stopped in his tracks by the referee’s whistle, who ordered a scrummage reset to the disbelief of all Stroud players and supporters. The ball was won again but the attack petered out with a handling error that proved the last action of the game. Full TimeMatson 15Stroud10 After 6 consecutive league wins and a walk over, this was Stroud’s first setback of the season and a positive response is now crucial. In difficult conditions with the set piece below par, Stroud struggled to exert control throughout the game. Hopefully, this disappointment will galvanise the team in training throughout week to lift the standards back to where they have been and instil an attitude focussed on that positive response next week at Midsomer Norton.