Haydn Johns scores terrific late try as Stamford College Old Boys beat Brackley in Midlands 4 East (South) clash
Stamford College Old Boys claimed their third consecutive win across all competitions with a nailbiting 17-12 success over Brackley in Saturday's Midlands 4 East (South) clash at Welland Academy.
After Brackley had twice taken the bragging rights over the College last season, the Old Boys were targeting the game as a must-win match even though the campaign had only just begun.
A minutes silence was observed before kick-off to pay respect to Alex Waycot, the former College player who had left a lasting impression on all who knew him before tragically passing away recently.
Brackley won the toss and elected to play with the very strong wind behind them hoping to make the most of the advantage.
The first 10 minutes of the game was played without a break in play, possession swapping hands every couple of minutes in what was a frantic start.
College were hoping to be able to prove that they could compete against the youthful Brackley side and the wind combined.
However, after a penalty was conceded for an offside on the halfway line, the Brackley fly half was able to nudge the ball down within 10 metres of the try line.
The line-out was always going to be a difficult affair for both teams due to the swirling breeze.
However, after a well-worked line-out and some poor defensive work, Brackley were able to take the ball over the line for the first score of the day.
The conversion sailed over much to the jubilation of the handful of fans that had made the 120-mile round trip to support the visitors.
Stamford knew their game plan and that sticking to it could unlock any defence on their day.
They found themselves camped up in the Brackley half with pummelling runs from the likes of Greenslade and Walker which set a great platform for Flanders to mix both forwards and backs alike.
Phase after gruelling phase resulted in the inevitable infringement and, as a Brackley player went off his feet at the breakdown, a penalty was awarded.
Instead of kicking for the posts into the strong wind, skipper Johns opted to go for the corner by playing into the College's strong point.
The driving maul was collected and driven forwards with great power, however, it was brought down illegally.
Playing excellent heads up rugby during the advantage, Twose made a dart for the line and, with the strength and determination of Morgan backing him up from behind, they managed to bowl their way through for the score. Johns failed to add the extras making it 5-7
The game was beginning to settle and possession was traded freely looking for the territorial gain.
Brackley looked to pressure Strydom at full-back with high up-and-unders and also with strategic box kicks.
As well as he coped with the majority, he did fumble one forward just outside of the College 22.
With neither team conceding an inch at scrum time, the attacking team won possession back.
And, with a quick dart from the lightning quick scrum-half, he managed to suck in both Fraser and Morgan before stepping back inside leaving both defenders flat-footed and in his dust for a spectacular individual try. The conversion was missed and that left the score at 5-12.
The game was quickly finding itself to be a very back and forward type of game as again College found themselves camped inside their visitors 22.
More thunderous running from Reilley and Alex Walker gave the hosts a great base to plot an attack towards the try line.
It was just a case of finding that one split second moment, of which Flanders did as he popped the ball to a rampaging Pickerill. Bouncing off a few tackles he made it over with a flurry of Brackley players surrounding him.
The cheers of the large crowd soon fell silent though as the referee had judged him to be held up over the line.
To add more confusion the referee then signalled for a Brackley scrum, of which they cleared their lines and the next pause in play turned out to be the last of the half as Old Boys went in trailing 5-12.
With the wind against them in the first half, to be down by five points was not a disaster, but it was now College's turn to use the advantageous elements.
They used the substitutes bench to bring Whitfield, Wright and Rodrigues on to the field at flanker, second row and wing respectively.
The College were able to keep Brackley pinned back in their own half through gifted lines and tactical kicks.
Direct running from Smith and Fraser paved the way to make a platform for the backs to showcase some of the hard trained moves. However, the Brackley defence were resilient and up to the task of keeping Old Boys out.
This was until a schoolboy error deep within the Brackley 22 where the opposing scrum half was penalised for feeding at the scrum.
Fraser took the quick tap trying to catch them napping but was brought down inches from the line. He did, however, get the offload away for Dan Smith to get his second try in as many games.
A tough conversion to follow was helped along with the wind to sail through the posts and level the scores at 12-12.
After the kick restart, the game then lost its high tempo, players were cannoning into the defences which both stayed up to the task of slowing the rucks down.
Possession swapped hands a number of times with a penalty now and again allowing the teams to clear their lines.
A draw was seemingly on the cards with both teams unable to give that final pass to unlock the winning score.
College had the upper hand and the territory to match and they knew something had to happen as the clock ticked ominously down to the final few minutes.
With the forwards using their pick-and-go system effectively, they managed to both suck in enough defenders to the breakdown and deliver quick ball to the backs when required.
The ball was spun to skipper Johns and, as he sold the opposing 10 the dummy pass, he found himself crabbing across the pitch, only to pick his gap between the 12 and 13.
A delicate chip over the winger and full-back meant the race was on and, as the ball passed the try line and with inches to spare, Johns was able to dot the ball down for a possible try of the season contender.
Unfortunately he couldn’t turn his five points into a seven-pointer but it still gave College a 17-12 advantage.
The kick off was still to be taken before the game was up and it was calmly placed by the College.
A few phases passed in an attempt to wind the clock down and without any hesitation was kicked off the field of play to confirm the success.
Old Boys find themselves on the road again on Saturday, this time at Deepings which is always a fiery derby day game with no shortage of drama (kick-off 3pm).
College: S Pickerill, M Harker, C Walker, J Reilly, A Walker, D Smith, B Morgan, C Fraser, A Flanders, H Johns, S Durman,L Greenslade, J Chapman, A Durrant, J Strydom. Subs: J Twose, M Palmer, A Whitfield, T Rodrigues, P Wright.