Stamford slip from top spot with draw but are still title favourites
Stamford Rugby slipped to second in the Midlands Two East North Division for the first time this season after a 15-15 draw with third place Ashbourne on Saturday.
The draw did keep Stamford’s unbeaten home record this season intact and leaves them well in contention to be battling for the title with Dronfield, who lead by a point but have played one game more.
Stamford went into the fixture with a long list of absentees, including seven players who are regular starters. The challenge ahead would be a notable one, not least due to the fact that the side had hardly trained with one another in the a last six weeks.
From kick off Stamford looked to work their way up-field, against the elements with quality handling only to be undone when they were adjudged to be holding on at the ruck. The penalty was awarded to Ashbourne and their fly half punted the ball into touch just short of the Stamford line. The ball was caught at the front of the line and a maul was formed, which was aggressively taken to floor by the Stamford pack, only for the ball to picked up and driven over in the right hand corner to take an early 5 - 0 lead. The conversion was missed.
Stamford moved back up the field and responded with some good continuity between backs and forwards. The play was moving right to left when Matt Albinson, stepping in for Laurent Ross at fly half,
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saw space down the short side to release Steve Taylor who drew the last man and fed David Martin to race in from 30 metres. With the conversion going agonisingly to the left the scores were tied at 5-5.
After a quiet 15 minutes Stamford won a penalty and skipper Chris Fletcher elected to kick for the corner. The resulting line out saw Tom Mutter throw directly to James Green at the front of the line and he bulldozed his way over to leave the score 10-5.
However just before the break Ashbourne drove a scrum over from five metres out to take the half time score to 10-10.
The second half started poorly for Stamford who lost two of their backline to yellow cards, first Steve Taylor saw yellow for an alleged push and then Albinson was given a 10 minute rest for an alleged shoulder charge.
The result was Stamford were left defending their line with only 13 players for the best part of eight minutes.
The Ashbourne fly-half finally managed to take advantage of the extra men and crossed the line but the conversion was missed.
Taylor returned to the game and moved to fly half and minutes later Rees Burns entered the fray to replace Albinson.
Burns made a good break to set Stamford down-field and scrum half Robbie Smith kept the momentum going with a quick tap penalty several phases later. He fed his big forwards and eventually James Green showed great strength to pile over just to the left of the left hand upright.
With the scores level at 15 - 15, Taylor had conversion to win it but pulled the kick to the left and the final minute was played out to leave both sides having to settle for a draw and two further league points.