Stamford College Old Boys move into the semi-finals of the NLD Vase with victory over Keyworth
Stamford College Old Boys carried their excellent league form into the NLD Vase with a 43-8 success over Keyworth in Saturday's quarter-final clash.
In a game that was nearly called off due to bad fog and a frozen pitch, Old Boys secured their semi-final spot with an excellent all-round performance.
This was the first meeting between the two sides in a number of years so both teams went into the match at Welland Academy not knowing what to expect.
Even though Keyworth plied their trade in the lower merit leagues this was by no means going to be a walkover game and the College had to be focused from the first whistle.
The opening five minutes was a cagey affair with both teams testing the water and trying to identify weak links within the opposition.
A penalty was given the way of the home team after a misdemeanour at the bottom of a ruck and, with a thick blanket of fog covering the posts, skipper Johns opted for the kick into the corner to test the visitors set play.
This paid dividends as the ball was collected at the front of the line by the ever-reliable Smith and recycled through the hands while edging towards the line.
After a surge of players crashed over the line it was Sam Duncan that rose up last with a big smile knowing he had the last hand on the ball for the first score.
With kicking duties to follow, Johns could barely see the visitors standing under the posts, let alone the posts themselves, however that didn’t stop him adding the extras from out wide for a 7-0 lead.
Receiving the kick-off again, the home side were able to string some great phases together with some excellent lines from the likes of Pickerill, Fraser and Walker.
This was combined with excellent rucking from Darlington, Whitfield and colleagues which set an excellent platform for the backs to run expertly timed set moves to gain some great territory.
And it wasn’t long before the College were deep within the Keyworth 22 where a fumbled ball from the visitors at the line-out saw scrum half Alan Flanders react quickest as he took the ball into the already busy blindside.
Flanders used his pace and was able to run around the last defender and cross the line for the second score of the day, making sure he dotted the ball closer to the posts for an easier conversion. The extra points were added and the score was 14-0.
A brief lapse of concentration from the kick-off meant that Keyworth instantly gained the advantage and were showing that they were clearly not there just to make up the numbers.
A brilliant couple of phases saw them take the ball well into the home team's half and, with a few slipped tackles, saw them work an overlap to score down in the corner.
This was a warning sign for the College as they saw the kick sail wide to keep their lead at more than a scores distance at 14-5.
Using it as a kick-start for College to turn the screw that little bit tighter, Johns was able to notice the full-back out of position and dinked a cheeky grubber past the oncoming defensive line straight into the outstretched arms of veteran Phil Young who was starting his first game of the season.
However, the cruellest of bounces meant that instead of scoring under the posts to end his season-long try drought, it was his centre partner Sam Durman that was able to collect the ball and touch down under the posts making kicking responsibilities almost too easy for Johns who made it 21-5 at half-time.
Although there were plenty of positives to be spoken of at half-time, a few kinks were easily amendable.
College brought on their newest recruit Tom Heath to prop, pushing Sam Duncan into hook and allowing the highly energetic Twose into the back row.
Second Row Craig Darlington also made way for Harker who is really coming into his own this season within the pack.
Changes made and tactics tweaked, College's plan was to tire the larger forwards out by dragging them from one side of the pitch to the other.
This was clearly the game plan that would win the game as the next try was scored within minutes of the half-time whistle.
A flat pass from Johns allowed James Twose to break the line and side-step the pressuring full-back to get his reward away in the far corner. The conversion looked excellent until the last second where it just scraped wide by an inch.
With the score favouring the home side, it allowed the College to try different things while maintaining their game plan which added a bit of freedom within their playing style.
Playing with a real sense of flair when attacking with the ball, there was also a real urgency in defence.
An excellent rushing blitz defence piled the pressure on the visiting fly half who in turn was forced to throw a risky pass that didn’t get into the hands of the recipient as the ball bounced behind.
It fell into the accepting arms of Brierley-Lewis who took the ball over the line with the conversion being successful even with the treacherous visibility to make it 33-5.
A slight slip in the form of an offside from the home side then allowed Keyworth a lucrative penalty on the 22-metre line.
Instead of going to the corner they opted for the points on offer which the fly half stood up and slotted the relatively easy kick to make it 33-8 in what proved to be the visitors' last points of the game.
College, however, were not finished with their points tally and the next try came from Dan Smith.
A penalty on the Keyworth 22 was tapped quickly by Alex Walker and, despite doing all of the hard work, he was desperately dragged down with a few yards to go.
With a couple of pick and go’s from the pack they edged closer to the line and, with the final pick, flanker Smith was over to claim another great score and increase his tally for the season. Johns was unable to add the extra points to make it 38-8.
Hungry for more, and with the addition of Kev Pulley for Jim Chapman out on the wing, the College received the kick off and worked themselves up the pitch.
Both backs and forwards worked fantastically in unison to deliver a great deal of possession and a handy part of the pitch to base a crucial attack from.
As the ball was dragged into centre field from yet another cannoning run from Pickerill, Johns spotted an overlap down the blindside.
After changing lanes, he managed to float a pinpoint pass to Fraser who was paying a rare visit to the wing position and he was able to cross the whitewash in the corner being dragged down by his hair for his sixth score of the season.
Johns, although sturdy with the boot throughout the game, missed the extra points to make the final score 43-8.
The last play consisted of a knock-on from Keyworth and the game was finished with the College claiming the spoils and progressing through to the semi-final.
It was certainly one of the more all-round performances from the College this season and they will be looking at carrying that form back over into the league when they play host to Aylestone St James this weekend.
College: S Pickerill, J Twose, S Duncan, A Walker, C Darlington, A Whitfield, D Smith, C Fraser, A Flanders, H Johns, P Young, S Durman, J Chapman, A Durrant, J Strydom. Subs: M Harker, T Heath, K Pulley.
More by this authorJames Bedford