Stamford College Old Boys beat Thorney in Midlands 4 East (South) clash
Stamford College Old Boys returned to winning ways with a dramatic last-gasp victory over Thorney in Saturday’s Midlands 4 East (South) clash at Welland Academy.
They overturned a 3-17 first half deficit to run out winners by a solitary point courtesy of a successful late penalty from Haydn Johns.
Old Boys had gone into the clash looking to bounce back from the defeat by Northampton Mens Own in their last outing against a visiting Thorney side aiming to pick up their first points of the season after a fairly miserable start to the campaign.
Earlier in the week, College coaches Jon Duncan and Carl Walker had spoken about the ‘want’ within the team - the want to make the first up tackles, the want to make that defensive set, the want to carry the ball both forward and hard and the want to get over the gain-line.
College took the game to Thorney immediately and the away side was guilty of conceding three consecutive penalties at the breakdown allowing Old Boys to kick for territory and camp out deep within the visiting 22.
However, chances were not taken and, as the ball was softly turned over, Thorney were able to get a clasp on the game, clearing their lines and finding some territory for themselves.
The game found a nicely even rhythm and it wasn’t until a few slipped College tackles that allowed the visitors to get the first score down in the corner, the conversion was missed to make it 0-5.
However, it was only a brief minute before Thorney were again undone at the breakdown and conceded a penalty right in front of the posts.
The College opted for points instead of field position this time. It was the correct choice as the penalty calmly sailed over to make it 3-5.
Heavy running from the large Thorney pack was ferociously met with thundering hits from the likes of Pickerill, Shepherd and Duncan and, with excellent counter rucking, slowed the pace of the visitors’ game right down.
As the match progressed the pitch was churning up and making handling errors more frequent.
College found themselves facing a scrum right underneath their posts and, with an excellent step, the opposing number eight was able to leave the Old Boys back row flat footed as they watched him cross for Thorney’s second score of the game.
With a much easier conversion this time around the extras were added to make the score 3-12.
The concentration had been left behind as College found themselves back under the posts a few minutes after conceding another soft try in the corner with Thorney having a well-worked two-man overlap out wide.
The conversion was missed, but Old Boys knew they had to right their wrongs otherwise they were heading for a very long day in the office as they trailed 3-17.
Switched on and ready for the fight back, College were able to re-gather the restart and set a platform for the backs to try and dazzle.
However, there was no gap to seize, no matter how hard the centre partnership of Durman and Rodrigues looked.
Even the forwards were only moving ahead an inch at a time at the breakdown, however, what they did do was lure in a few opposing players from the wings and this created a large overlap down the blind-side.
Noticing this Johns immediately called for the ball as he darted off down the short side to place it down in the corner to an almighty cheer from the home crowd that had braved the cold to come and give support.
The conversion was a tricky one and unfortunately just passed wide by a few inches. The score was to be the last of the half and the visitors led 8-17
After a team talk, both coaches ensured that there was no reason to start panicking and playing questionable 50/50 rugby and instead focus on the strong points of the team.
The changes were also rung and brought on Darlington, Brierley-Lewis, Gamble and Smith for Shepherd, Houston, Morgan and Flanders respectively.
Knowing to play to their strengths, the College immediately collected a penalty and opted to go for the corner knowing that on its day the driving maul could cause any team some nightmares.
The line-out was flawless and the driving maul sublime as the ball was recycled through every set of hands before it made its way to Dan Smith who dropped over the line. This time the conversion was successful and the score stood at 15-17
Unfortunately the next 15 minutes was not a great patch as the College lost Alex Walker to the sin bin
The news then only got worse as another yellow was shown to full back Strydom for an alleged push off the ball. The only saving grace was that, when the yellow card came out for a third time, it was the turn of Thorney to be punished for their misdemeanours.
Playing very conservatively until they were back at 15 players, College struggled to compete and found themselves chasing the Thorney winger all the way into the corner for the visitors’ bonus point score.
It could have gone either way when Johns almost grounded the ball, only to be judged as second best as the try was awarded with the conversion coming up short.
These were to be Thorney’s last points of the game though as the game entered the final 15 minutes with the visitors leading 15-22.
Using the only remaining sub in the form of Tom Birks to replace the ever reliable Chapman on the wing, the College set about the job they knew they had to perform.
And, with excellent field position and a monstrous driving maul playing to their advantages, a penalty kick was nudged onto the Thorney 22 metre line.
College expertly drove the ball along the touch line recycling it until the momentum had almost stopped on the visitors’ five-metre line.
This is when the backs came swarming in and gave that extra nudge before substitute Birks was able to claim the ball and fall over the line for an excellent team score.
The kick to level the score was a tricky one and fell just to the side of the sticks to leave Old Boys trailing 20-22.
Knowing they needed one more score, Old Boys really turned the screw and applied the pressure trying to force either a knock on or a turnover.
As time ticked down Thorney were adjudged to have been illegally handling the ball at the bottom of the ruck.
The second yellow card for Thorney and, fourth of the day, was produced and with that a very feasible penalty kick loomed.
Johns decided to take the shot at the posts. It was fairly identical to his first penalty kick and he had no problems to nudge the ball over and move Old Boys into the lead for the first time after 78 minutes of the game.
With only a few seconds left on the clock, College calmly and collectively took the ball on the charge and ground through the phases with Whitfield, Twose and Fraser strongly threatening to break the line once more.
However, when the ball was spun wide from Gamble to Johns, he wound the miss pass up but it fell short and looked to be in to Thorney hands until it was spilt forward.
The resulting scrum was the final play and, as the ball nestled at the feet of Fraser, Gamble kicked the ball into touch and finished the game.
College will now be looking to make it back-to-back wins as they travel down to Wellingborough OGs on Saturday hopeful of making it a possible six victories from seven games.
Old Boys: S Pickerill, J Twose, S Duncan, C Shepherd, A Walker, A Whitfield, B Morgan, C Fraser, A Flanders, H Johns, S Durman, T Rodrigues, J Chapman, T Houston, J Strydom. Subs: S Gamble, C Darlington, C Brierley-Lewis, D Smith, T Birks.
More by this authorJames Bedford