Stockwood Park’s 1st XV put in the performance of the season on Saturday (18 February), showing a level of grit, determination and passion sometimes found wanting. Sadly, it wasn’t enough for the home side as they fell to an agonisingly close 19-22 loss to a strong Enfield side.
Following last weeks 104-0 defeat away to Belsize Park, Coach Alan Lane was looking for his side to come out fighting and secure that evasive first win, and the lads did just that.
Even in the warm up there was a sense of concentration and seriousness unseen so far, the squad were hungry for victory and you could see how important it was to do so.
With Enfield playing towards the clubhouse in the first half. Stockwood knew they would have to strike early to get a foothold in the game. The set piece looked strong from the start, with hooker Tom Childs and second rower Will Varnals working in tandom at the lineout, producing quick ball to release the eager backline. The scrum once again looked the monster from the promotion winning season, regularly pushing the visitors off their own ball, or atleast disrupting to stop any chance of a strong attack.
It was the visitors who struck first, with smooth hands quickly fed out to their danger man winger, who was unstoppable on his way to the tryline. Conversion added, 7-0 Enfield.
That try was the home side needed, and led by Captain Jamie Hoque, Stockwood barrelled their way forward, with strong, determined carries. Following a loose lineout from the visitors, and good work from Hoque, the ball made its way to Welsh centre Martin Rowe, who bullied his way to the tryline for the home sides first score, which was converted by fly half James Hankey. Stockwood 7-7 Enfield.
The home side seemed to find their footing in the game, and with the backs running with aggression and forwards working overtime to get around the park, Stockwood looked to be taking a firm stance in the game.
But as the home side should have learnt from the first game of the new season, you cant afford to sit back and let teams run at you. Enfield hit back with their own try, but failed at the conversion attempt with the scores now 12-7 to Enfield.
Again, Stockwood came back firing. Michael Powell, who carried like a work horse all game, made metre after metre for the home side, with scrum half Frank Daly barking orders and producing clean ball for fly half Hankey to release full back Alex Lovell, who showed a deceptive turn of pace to beat his man on the outside and fed the ball nicely wide, only for the last pass to be fumbled forward by winger Jason Mitchell. That proved to be the only mistake from Mitchell, more renound for his cannonball running in the centres, who put in an incredible performance on in his make-shift position.
Stockwood didn’t hold back, and a with only 10 minutes to go until half time, outside centre Jack Brooks was the recipient of a perfectly times pass from partner Rowe, and Brooks slid in for Stockwoods second try, again converted by Hankey.
HT Stockwood 14-12 Enfield.
With Stockwood now playing the towards the club, the atmosphere rose around London Road, and the lads again looked to take the game to the visiting Ignatians.
Enfield struck first, with a simple penalty in front of the posts. The comeback was made that much harder with Captain Hoque seeing yellow. But, as shown in the first half, Stockwood seemed to rise to the challenges thrown at them.
Fly half Hankey played the corners well, and kept Enfield pinned down in their half. It was from these positions Stockwood were able to build phases and claw their way to the Enfield line. And after several phases of play, it was the poacher Alex Lovell who managed to worm his way across the whitewash. Conversion missed, Stockwood 19-15 Enfield.
Hoque returned to the field, and once again the home side pushed and jabbed their way into the Enfield half. But, as this season has proven you need to be clinical, or you will be punished. After some good build up play and simple hands, the Enfield number 8 managed to burrow his way through a gap, beating the last man to dot down under the posts. Conversion added, Stockwood 19-22 Enfield.
Enfield now played sensible, and kept the ball close to their pack as they looked to wind down the clock and snatch victory away. But a slight gap opened for the right wing, and as he looked to be clean through, whippet Daly came flying across to put in a superb try saving tackle, and with support flying in, the threat was shut down.
Again Stockwood came firing back, and late into the game pushed Enfield deep into their 22, and with pressure mounting on the visiting side, Stockwood managed to get a scrum, 10 metres out, was this their last chance to snatch back victory?
As the ball was fed in, from the touchline you could feel the energy and passion being exerted from all eight players. Backwards and backwards the Enfield pack was marched, but the referee blew his whistle, penalty Enfield.
With the kick to touch the referee announced one minute to play. From the lineout the forwards pushed and pressed for the ball, but were repelled by a gritty and determined visiting side.
With the referee’s nod, the visiting scrum half hoofed the ball off the park, and the game had evaded the home side.
Captain Hoque spoke after the game: “We left it all out on the field, and every single player gave everything for the jersey today. “Tuesday and Thursday were good sessions, and the focus seemed to return and we targetted this game as a must win. Unfortunately we didn’t make it across the line, but we know we can stand up to teams in this league, and I am confident the lads will want to continue to push on from this.”
Final score: Stockwood Park 1st XV 19-22 Enfield Ignatians
MOTM: Alex Lovell