Stamford Rugby Club make a winning start to their Midlands 2 East (South) season with victory over Long Buckby
Stamford made a winning start to their Midlands 2 East (South) season after a 19-12 away win at Long Buckby on Saturday.
It was their first competitive outing for 18 months due to the coronavirus pandemic and their opening match following promotion.
There was a sense of anticipation and excitement for the newly-formed squad who renewed acquaintances with a Long Buckby side for the first time in seven years.
With the home team's pitch in fantastic condition and the weather set fair, Stamford were eager to get going.
The squad travelled with a mixture of experience and youth with the ever-present James Green taking up a position on the bench and Toby Anderson starting his first competitive league game at scrum half following a move from outside centre.
The game started with the home side dominant as Long Buckby retained possession and territory in the Stamford half courtesy of some early nerves which saw them give away penalties at the breakdown and by way of some loose tackling technique.
Long Buckby’s fly half pushed Stamford back into their twenty-two with several penalty kicks to touch.
The home side's line-out was well drilled, consistently hitting the middle and tail and setting up a number of driving mauls.
Following 12 minutes of consistent pressure, the purple, black and white defence finally succumbed to the home side's forward pressure and took a deserved 5-0 lead.
The following 20 minutes were very much stop-start with both teams struggling to build any real continuity.
Having looked a little nervous for the first half-an-hour, Stamford finally showed some attacking prowess.
By taking a quick tap penalty, they pushed forwards over the gain line and created quick and clean ball for Anderson to direct play with.
The direct and dynamic play led to Long Buckby's defence becoming narrow and the ball was then spread out wide through Robbie Smith to the outside backs for Harry Ayton to neatly finish in the left-hand corner.
Full-back Ian Downer stepped up and converted to take a well fought 7-5 lead into half-time.
The interval provided the purple, black and whites with an opportunity to redirect their focus and, with a few strong words from both the players and the coaching team, there was a renewed sense of purpose going into the second half.
The Long Buckby fly half started the second half by providing plenty of height on his kick for his chasing pack.
The kick was not gathered cleanly and Long Buckby were left with an attacking scrum 30 yards from the Stamford line.
Not to be overpowered, the Stamford scrum started to compete and gain parity with the slightly heavier Long Buckby pack and the Greens were left with scrappy ball that their back line struggled to use to any great threat.
With debutant Michael Cade and Josh Evans filling their tight head and loose head jerseys respectively, the Stamford pack has a renewed and long-awaited physicality in the front row.
Couple this with the tenacious harassment of the Long Buckby scrum half by Anderson, the home side struggled to gain any real front foot ball from which to launch a meaningful and threatening attack.
Stamford turned up the attacking heat and with a number of tapped penalities and more accurate set pieces their free flowing attack started to show signs of being too quick to handle.
Several carries from Gareth Ramsden, Tristan Small, Louis Nettleton and Mike Kendall left Long Buckby scrambling in defence.
This pressure was applied for the first 20 minutes of the second half and led to two further scores from an outstanding Jack Jones, who not only had to move out to outside centre from lock but who also turned up the heat in defence and at times single-handedly stopped the Long Buckby attack with a number of bone shuddering hits.
With Downer accurate from the tee, Stamford took a seemingly comfortable 19-5 lead with 14 minutes left.
A number of attempts to bag the fourth try were mustered but to no avail and, with a bizarre end to the game, Long Buckby were awarded a penalty try for a Stamford player not being 10 metres from a penalty, preventing in the referee's eyes a guaranteed try.
Despite the late setback, Stamford held out and, with a number of players due to return from unavailability and injury, competition for jerseys is going to be high and with another weeks training under their belt this squad is going to go from strength to strength.
They return home on Saturday to face a consistently strong Market Bosworth who also opened their account with a 38-19 home win against St Ives at the weekend.
Stamford: Josh Evans, Freddy Durrant, Michael Cade, Tristan Small, Jack Jones, Mike Kendall, Louis Nettleton, Gareth Ramsden, Toby Anderson, Robert Smith (captain), Harry Ayton, Austin Schwarz, Iain Downer, David Martin, Harry Bentley, James Green, Ramon Davies, Austin Baker.