Stamford College Old Boys are top of Midlands 4 East (South) after home victory over Kempston
Stamford College Old Boys are setting the pace at the top of Midlands 4 East (South) after recording their fourth successive victory on Saturday.
They defeated Kempston 55-12 in front of a good crowd at the Welland Academy to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign.
Kempston, who were on the end of a bad defeat the previous weekend, were clearly chomping at the bit to inflict the first defeat on Old Boys this season.
The match kicked off with both sides retaining the ball very well and both aiming to make that territorial advantage.
The opening 10 minutes were a cagey affair as strong carries from the likes of Smith, Fraser and Whitfield up front allowed Flanders and the backs to enjoy good amounts of ball.
And it was with the larger share of possession and territory that College were able to find their way over the line first.
Oliver Sherwin was on the end of an inch-perfect flat pass that cut through the heart of the Kempston defence and slid over under the posts for his first score in College colours. Skipper Johns duly added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
However, this lead did not last for long, as five minutes later College were seen to be napping as a strong carry from the Kempston midfield allowed the centre to bounce off numerous tackles and get the visitors' first points. The fly half added the conversion to bring the scores back level.
After a brief talking too under the posts, the College realised that the screw needed turning - and for the next 15 or so minutes that was the case.
The home pack was able to put their opposing forwards under huge amounts of pressure at the scrum by turning over much of Kempstons put-ins while the line out was also asimilar affair.
All of this pressure up front meant something had to give and, after sucking a lot of opposition towards the breakdown, the ball was spun out and allowed Johns to pick a gaping hole as he arched his run around the fly half and inside centre and again go underneath the posts. He added the extras to make the score 14-7.
Desperate not to be caught slacking again from kick-off, the ball was caught and recycled through a few phases before Johns was able to clear his lines with an excellent kick.
However, it didn’t find touch and gave Kempston an opportunity to attack with real venom from deep.
The full-back was able to break the first line of defenders but was brought down at the second time of asking.
However, with such quick ball and a great platform, they were able to set up camp deep within the College half.
Putting on great pressure, however, got the better of them as they spilled the ball forward.
The resulting scrum was adjudged by the referee to have been brought down illegally by the College front row and the free-kick was taken quickly.
The College pack scrambled back but it was already too late as the numerical advantage that Kempston had on the front foot led to another score with Old Boys caught napping again.
The conversion, however, was missed and that proved to be the last play of the half as Old Boys led 14-12 at the break.
A very strong set of words followed at the half-time interval as all players were guilty of knowing they could do better.
This strong telling off proved to be the defining moment though throughout the game.
College also had the wealth of a full bench to choose from and the changes were rung.
The double act of Gamble and Darlington, who have not played for just under a year due to niggling injuries, were brought on at scrum half and second row respectively.
College, fuelled by the fiery team talk, collected possession from kick off and instantly fell into the game plan that they wanted to play.
The front row of Pickerill, Twose and Carl Walker really put the Kempston scrum under pressure and, after a brief period of dominance from the pack, Johns was able to score a near perfect replica of his first try but out wide.
Again he was able to knock the conversion over to make the score 21-12
Fed up of seeing the backs take all of the glory, the forwards then decided to get in on the try scoring action in the form of player-coach Carl Walker dotting over from an excellent catch and drive maul on the Kempston 22 metre line.
Johns, although successful with his first three attempts, watched in despair as his kick fell just short.
Gaining the momentum it was only a brief moment before the College were camped out deep in the 22 before Carl Walker popped the ball to a rampaging Alex Walker who ran straight through the full back to get over the line.
The conversion was as straight as a dart to sail through the posts and give Old Boys a 33-12 lead.
With the wind really in their sails, the College were showing the type of rugby that they were capable of playing which had been missing from previous weeks.
This was proven when Carl Brierley-Lewis, back in constant action after a lengthy period on the sidelines, took an exquisite pass from Carl Walker and side-stepped the winger before going over for his first score of the season in the corner.
He wasn’t done there, finding the scoring form he was capable of from seasons past.
Brierley-Lewis picked up his second try from an incredibly ran line, off a switch ball which completely confused the defensive line and he was able to get over again.
The extra points unfortunately went begging meaning the score was now 43-12
With 15 minutes to go and the score favourably going the way of Old Boys, the bench was emptied and this brought Morgan, Chapman and Duncan into the fray at flanker, winger and hooker respectively.
With these fresh legs brought an added boost and again College found themselves going up yet another gear.
After a penalty was given to the College on their 22 metre line, the prevailing kick found touch on the Old Boy's 10 metre line.
The ball was secured and the strong eight-man pack were able to walk Kempston back to well within their 22 from an outstanding maul.
A few phases followed, inching towards the try line, when the ball was spun out from Gamble to Johns who down the blindside was able to loop a perfect pass to Alex Walker who one-handedly caught the ball for him only to use his other hand to fend the scrambling winger and touch down in the corner for what is a serious contender for try of the season.
The extras were not so glamorous as the kick sailed just wide to make the score 48-12.
With just a few minutes of the match left, the College aimed to keep possession and finish the game off.
However, after around seven phases, Kempston's defenders had again been dragged into the scrappiness of ruck time and this created space out wide.
The ball was spun out with real malice and, as it went through the hands, Johns - eager to finish off the game with a hat-trick of scores - looped around the side of the winger and managed to get the ball down for the score that brought about the 50 point mark.
He also added the conversion to make the score 55-12 as the referee blew his whistle and the game was up.
The result was a fantastic sign of things to come if Old Boys switch on from the very beginning.
However, finding that continuity from the very first whistle will benefit the College in future games to come.
Having 27 players available for a game is excellent which makes the selection process incredibly difficult.
But, it also means, players are even more committed in regards toturning up to training allowing them to fight for that starting shirt.
They travel to face Northampton Mens Own on Saturday who are another team who are still unbeaten in the league and what will no doubt be a real clash of the titans.
College: S Pickerill, J Twose, C Walker, C Steele, A Walker, A Whitfield, D Smith, C Fraser, A Flanders, H Johns, S Durman, O Sherwin, T Houston, T Rodrigues, C Brierley-Lewis. Subs: S Duncan, C Darlington, B Morgan, S Gamble, J Chapman.
Anyone interested in returning to rugby or even starting out afresh, Old Boys run a friendly first team that caters for all abilities.
Training is at 6.45pm for a 7pm start on Thursday nights at Welland Academy with games being played every Saturday afternoon.