Stockwood Park v Northampton Casuals

Stockwood Park started 2019 in the same way that they finished 2018, with a storming victory over one of the promotion hopefuls, on this occasion Northampton Casuals, who arrived unbeaten at London Road with 11 wins out of 11 and with a 10 point advantage at the top of the league.

In their present form reputations have come to mean little for Park who played with intensity and commitment and more than matched their opponents in nearly all aspects of the game. The key to their success was that most important foundation in any success, their defence. What looked flaky in October / November has been stiffened by the return to form and fitness of Flanker Michael Powell, outstanding throughout and rightly judged the man of the match.

A mistake from the kick off put Park under immediate pressure and they were soon defending their line. However, five minutes of pressure from the visitors was firmly held by the Park defence with their “pocket dynamo“ Full back, Frank Daly,  making a crucial try saving tackle to eventually relieve the pressure.  Daly tackled bravely throughout as all Park defenders rose to the challenge.

With Park now forcing their way into the visitors half, despite losing No 8 Ben Griffin with further injury problems, it was loose head prop, Justin Harkin, prominent throughout, who opened the scoring with a strong run to the line. Casuals came straight back with a try of their own before flanker Jack Brooks, with another powerful performance on the back row, burst onto a pass following some excellent team interplay to score a try which Centre Steve Pollock adding the extras.  Park led 12-5 at halftime.

Casuals started the second half powerfully, but a combination of handling errors and powerful Park defence kept the visitors at bay before Park moved to a 19-10 lead when Flankers Brooks and Powell latched onto a visitors handling error for Michael Powell to drive over for the score. Steve Pollock converted the try with an excellent kick. Casuals now attacked again but Park held firm. The visitors kicked a penalty on the final whistle to secure a losing bonus point but this was Park’s day and they were able to celebrate a fine team performance and an excellent victory in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd.

Next week Park travel to Birstall RFC near Leicester.

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