Lets start with the negatives… we were missing some great players on Sunday through injuries and School trips…
…now onto the positives! What a game!
I personally like to watch a tight game of rugby rather than a run away victory or loss and this is exactly what we got on Sunday. Two teams that were very well matched and up for a contest. The ‘Casuals’ were anything but that at the start of the game, their coaching staff were certainly vocal in getting them psyched up on the touch line and in the initial few minutes of the game appeared to have a slight edge. It soon became apparent though that Stockwood were not going to be an easy team to play against.
The boys were defensively very strong and soaked up the pressure in the first onslaught, pushing the home team back and frustrating their attacking players. Stockwood slowly but surely settled themselves in and started to make their own headway into the oppositions half with some clever inter play. A special mention needs to be made here for ‘Little’ Jordan, who made his debut for the team on Sunday.
As the game progressed Stockwood found themselves deep in the Casuals half being awarded a penalty. The boys set themselves up and ran as a pack into the defensive line, the ensuing carnage led to another penalty. Again the boys set themselves up to run at the defence drawing the opposition in only to switch the play completely leaving the Casuals dead on their feet. A series of well balanced passes out to the wing ended with ‘Old’ Jordan putting our first points on the board with Kieron converting. This was fantastic to watch and I think one of the first times we’ve witnessed the players really think on their feet and make a tactical decision unaided. On the touch line we were as dumbstruck as the Northampton players.
With their noses put firmly out of joint The Casuals came back at Stockwood hard. They’ve got some great players on their side with real determination but an unfortunate incident was about to change the next 10 minutes of the game. Tarik was unlawfully kicked whilst making a run and in the melee afterwards Dan Spain was sin binned leaving us a player down. The boys regrouped and had to focus on defence. Pinned in their own half they worked incredibly hard to try and make ground, but a series of handling errors and penalties were keeping the pressure firmly on. The Casuals pressed on and were incredibly close to scoring a try only to be thwarted by the strength of ‘Little’ Jordan.
The boys could only soak up this amount of pressure for so long however and eventually conceded a try leaving the first half score 5-7 to Stockwood.
The beginning of the second half was a bit of a strange affair, the boys came back on and seemed a little out of sorts leading to the Casuals gaining the upper hand. They quickly found a way through our defence and scored their second try, however they again didn’t manage to convert.
In the past we would potentially have witnessed the boys heads drop but this was not the case this time. If anything it seemed to spur them on and shake them out of it. From this point on the team appeared to galvanise itself back together. Another thing worth mentioning here is that the players now do appear to be talking to each other and figuring out what the issues are, and how to fix them.
Our next attacking phase saw Mark Smith come agonisingly close to scoring with a brilliantly powerful charge at their defence, he missed by a matter of centimetres! The boys kept probing the oppositions defence with the intensity of the rucks raising to a new level of aggression. This unfortunately denied Alin his first try of the season, some further off the ball ‘scuffling’ caused the ref to blow the whistle just as he’d placed the ball down, much to everyones dismay.
The Stockwood boys were camped in the Casuals half and were determined not to let this momentum be lost. A penalty awarded to Stockwood again allowed them to spread the ball wide along the line eventually reaching Max, who in almost a carbon copy of Alins previous attempt stormed through to place the ball down giving us a narrow 2 point lead.
The Casuals were not done yet and fought back admirably but Park now had the upper hand. Turning defence into attack ‘Old’ Jordan and Daniel Loft made two of the most perfectly timed passes of the game to set ‘Cutter’ Carter on his way to his first try of the season. Literally cutting his way passed two defenders and diving for the line he put Stockwood 7 points clear.
With just 5 minutes left to play the boys needed to stay focused, and barring a few rash kicks here and there, saw the game out to win the first league game of the season.
There’s always going to be things that the lads need to improve on, they know that. But from what I’ve seen so far they’re on the right path and will learn from their mistakes. There is a level of maturity to their game now, even if we do need to iron out a few ‘anger’ issues in the heat of the moment. But at least all of the lads are playing with passion and long may that continue. As I’m always telling Will, I don’t pick Man Of The Match and actually if I was, I would find it almost impossible to call as we are now playing as a team, and not a set of great individuals.