Stamford College Old Boys win their first league match of the season after victory at Birstall
Stamford College Old Boys opened their Midlands 4 East (South) season with a thrilling away victory at Birstall on Saturday in a contest which produced 70 points.
They won 36-34 after an epic battle against a Birstall side who are hoping to bounce back straight up following their relegation last season.
College were looking to right the wrongs of last season and put a real stamp on their league campaign as they found themselves camped in the Birstall 22 after kicking off.
Phase after phase saw College find themselves having a favourable overlap out wide. Captain Haydn Johns noticed and delivered an inch-perfect crossfield kick straight into the arms of James Twose who touched down in the corner. Johns added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
However, that lead was not set to last as Birstall crashed over the line from a string of Old Boys defensive errors.
An identical play then saw them barge through the College line once again to make the score 14-7.
Stamford rallied and, with forceful running from the likes of Walker and Pickerill, they camped deep into the Birstall half.
The pressure was not handled well and, when the home side conceded a penalty 10 metres out, they were caught napping by Fraser who took a quick tap and barrelled over for a score, much to the discomfort of the Birstall team who replied with a penalty kick to make the score 17-14.
Fraser then took a flat ball on the 22 five minutes later and went over for his second score of the half. The conversion was missed making it 17-19 to the Old Boys.
As with the first try though, the Birstall forwards found themselves dragging College players into the breakdown and were able to utilise their backs and score down in the corner.
With the conversion going over, the whistle was blown for half-time with Birstall 24-19 ahead.
The second half kicked off in a familiar fashion to the first, however, it was the home team that found themselves camped on the College line.
After a gruelling set of phases, eventually they tightened the screw and went over under the posts. The conversion was missed making it 29-19.
After some strong reassuring words under the posts, College rallied in the tit-for-tat dog-fight that was happening in front of them.
Using phases to work their way up the pitch, Ben Morgan and Max Harker made great strides to gain territory.
Discipline let Birstall down and a penalty kick into the corner gave Stamford the platform to use one of their strong points from last season -the driving maul.
The ball was recycled through almost every forwards hands before Dan Smith crashed down over the line for a spectacular score which was soon converted to make it 29-26.
The bulk of the Birstall pack was beginning to tire and the Old Boys recognised this through good communication from Flanders giving quick distribution.
Strong running from Durman and tricky footwork from debutant Harley Riches allowed captain Johns to cross over the line for a great try, though his conversion faded wide which left the score at 29-31
Despite a missed conversion, Johns got his second try from a perfectly run backs move which carved a huge gap to allow it to happen.
With just 10 minutes left on the clock, College introduced Satherley, Rodrigues and Shepherd to bolster both the attack and defence respectively. However, an off-the-ball incident, saw Shepherd picking up a red card very quickly.
The last five minutes was a very nervy affair with College holding a 29-36 advantage.
They knew that a Birstall converted score would tie the game and unfortunately, because of the man deficit in the pack, the home number eight ploughed through a couple of tackles and went over for the possible tied score.
Much to the home crowd’s disappointment, the conversion sailed wide leaving the score at 34-36.
College knew all they had to do was force the fault from kick-off and that’s exactly what they did as the whistle was blown and the game was up.
Old Boys had edged it and the game will no doubt go down as a marker of what is yet to come for the team this season.
Old Boys: Pickerill, Harker, C Walker, Steele, A Walker, Morgan, Smith, Fraser, Flanders, Johns, Durman, Riches, Chapman, Twose, Brierley-Lewis. Subs: Shepherd, Satherley, Rodrigues.