Stamford College Old Boys beat Northampton Men's Own in Midlands 4 East (South) clash
Stamford College Old Boys picked up a vital bonus point win at the weekend as they both physically and mentally took apart a strong Northampton Men’s Own outfit for their first victory against the club in many years.
There was two tries apiece from Haydn Johns and Cat Walker with Dan Smith and Alex Walker also on target in the Midlands 4 East (South) clash at Welland Academy.
The ground under-foot was perfect for the College to play exciting, expansive rugby.
And, after opting to play into the wind and sun in the first half in the hope of making it a little easier after the break, the plan worked almost immediately.
After some stout defending from the College pack they were able to keep Northampton pinned back in their half for the first five minutes.
With no other options the visitors were made to kick possession away and give College a sturdy position just inside the Men's Own half.
After securing a line-out and driving forward, Flanders was able to deliver to the backs who tried their trickery and almost found a way through with a great crash ball coming from Sherwin but the Men's own defence held strong.
With such ferocious running through backs and forwards alike, it was only to be a matter of time though.
And, when Johns saw the space, he was able to breeze through the defence and get over the line for his first score under the posts.
With such a strong wind into his face he was thankful for such an easy conversion as he watched it go over.
Keen to keep applying pressure the College managed to work up the field and command a great position.
Heavy duty running from the front row of Pickerilll, Harker and Carl Walker gave a great platform, but the Men's Own defence was solid and not giving ground easily.
After a penalty at the breakdown the College set about testing the setpiece of the visitors and instead of taking an easy three points took the ball to a lineout in the corner.
This proved to be the right call as after mauling Men’s Own back on to their try line it was Alex Walker who took the initiative and broke off for the second score of the day.
A much trickier conversion followed and, as it looked to be seemingly whistling over, the wind just brought it short.
Men’s Own did find a small opening to get back into the game as they were given a penalty in the centre of the pitch.
Some quick thinking saw a tap and go which brought them even closer to the home side's line, however, some great tackling meant that nothing was to cross through the middle.
But, after working the phases, they were able to naturally get an overlap on the outside for their first score of the game.
A challenging kick for the extra two points went begging as the score then became 12-5.
Straight from kick off, the referee again had judged there to be some illegality at the breakdown and awarded Men’s Own yet another penalty.
This time they opted for points on the board and, with an easier kick, the fly half was able to bring the score to within four.
Knowing that they had the second half fast approaching with the elements to be on their side, College pushed for that final score before half-time to take the game beyond two scores.
This time it came in the form of Carl Walker, who like Alex Walker, slid off the back of a maul from an excellently performed line-out and pumped his legs over the line for a fine score.
However, another difficult kick just went wide to give Old Boys a 17-8 lead at the break with Men's Own suffering a further setback on the stroke of half-time as a forward let his side down as he attempted a tackle without the use of arms.
The referee was not hesitant to bring out the yellow card and, as the half-time whistle was blown, it was certainly advantage to Old Boys.
Keen to empty the bench and bring on fresh legs for their second half assault, Sam Duncan was brought on in place of Harker in the front row, Rodrigues replaced Sherwin who had picked up a slight knock in the first half out in the centre while it was also a chance to show off new debutant Wilkinson to fill in at scrum half.
After readjusting the game plan slightly to work around the elements, College set about pinning their opponents deep in their own half.
However, it was the visitors who struck first as a stern team talk at half-time had clearly being noted as they came out in the second half with a a real fire in their bellies.
Some slack tackling and poor defensive managementfrom the home side allowed Men's Own to cross for their second try of the game.
A better kick this time saw the full amount of points being taken to make the score 17-15.
Finally waking up again, the College saw the better share of possession and with that came a nicer field position with which to attack from.
A misdemeanour at the breakdown saw the visitors punished with a penalty on their own 10 metre line.
Johns comfortably nudged the ball towards the 22 and College knew that with their driving maul they could push Men’s Own over.
Despite the strong wind there had not been a crooked throw all game and it didn’t begin at this lineout.
Smith rose highest to collect the ball and the forwards inched towards the try line 10 metres out.
After collapsing the maul the referee awarded the advantage and from there it was Twose who broke through the line only to be halted a mere metre away.
However, with an excellent clear out from the pack, it was Smith who was on hand to squeeze the ball through the smallest of gaps to get the score. Johns was an inch short of adding the extras to make the score 22-15
Keen to keep momentum going forward, the College used a mixture of great running, sublime passing and an ever reliable boot to mix up their game and keep Men’s Own guessing.
Another new debutant Nathan Pound kept breaking the gain line with some expertly timed crash balls keeping Old Boys on the front foot.
After a few phases with the forwards they found themselves yet again within the grasp of the visiting side's try line.
Men’s Own had a perfectly placed defensive line, but it was Cat Walker who galloped over the ruck and crashed through for his second and the club's fifth score of the day.
The conversion unfortunately went wide and, with only 10 minutes left on the clock, the score was poised at 27-15
It was at this point Whitfield took to the field after returning from a two month injury.
He took the place of Alex Walker with Fraser moving to the second row and Smith taking the mantle at number eight so as to accommodate the new flanker.
Another debutant took the place of yet another new face as Giuralli came into the fold to replace Pound, pushing Durman off the wing and into centre.
Upon receiving the kick off Johns opted to put boot to ball and use that wind to really pin the visiting side back into their own half.
With lots of pressure and some demonic tackling the home side were not giving a yard and seemed hellbent on dragging the game to a close knowing the bonus point had already been achieved.
However, at the breakdown, the College were guilty of lazily rolling away which resulted in a penalty to Men’s Own in their 22.
The greatest compliment that could ever be paid to a forward is when a team opt to take the tap-and-go option because they are being dominated at both scrum time and the line-out.
This is the option that the visiting side took and, although keeping the ball for a few phases, they had not made many yards and eventually were turned over.
Thinking a counter attack was immediately on, the Men’s Own defence instantly began to drift.
But, as he dummied his pass, Johns clipped the ball over the defence and nearly collected his own kick.
The Northampton full back had been hoping to volley the ball dead, but instead his scuffed attempt landed in the outstretched arms of Johns who scored his second of the day.
Placing it down underneath the posts made an easier conversion attempt of which he slotted for what was to be the last play of a match which had seen Old Boys produce some of the best rugby at Welland Academy in some years.
College: S Pickerill, M Harker, C Walker, C Darlington, A Walker, J Twose, D Smith, C Fraser, A Flanders, H Johns, N Pound, O Sherwin, S Durman, C Brierley-Lewis, L Greenslade. Subs: S Duncan, A Whitfield, S Wilkinson, H Giuralli, T Rodrigues.
More by this authorJames Bedford