Friendlies… an interesting term given the levels of aggression shown by both sides this Sunday.
Rushden are a great side, strong, athletic and organised. We are a great side, strong, a little less athletic and a little less organised, and though the score line suggests we had a bad game this is not the case. Rushden put 78 points passed us at the beginning of last season and so we’ve improved a lot, 43 points worth in fact!
The first half was a very close affair. Rushden came out of the blocks hard and fast hoping to intimidate the Stockwood boys. No one had actually told Dan Spain this was their plan and so he immediately careered into one of their biggest players sending him to the ground. The tone was set, this was going to the a very physical game and for the most part we had the measure of the Rushden players.
One thing that our players can sometimes be guilty of is being a little too polite and I think this was taken advantage of early on with some off the ball ‘seconds’ taking place. No one condones this, it’s not part of the game that anyone should encourage and so I was pleased to see that, for the most part, our lads kept their cool in situations where things could very easily have escalated.
Stockwood were put under a lot of pressure in the first half, Rushden pressed hard and battled relentlessly but to our credit we held them for much of the half. The opposition tactically were very good and were able to spot holes in our defense which eventually led to 2 tries being scored. At this point the pendulum could have swung completely against the Stockwood team, however this was not to be the case. The away team kept their heads and regrouped pinning Rushden back into their half. A phase of dogged and aggressive play saw the Stockwood boys come desperately close to scoring just before the end of the first half. If it wasn’t for a series of decisions not going our way the team would have gone into the second half with the score being 12-5, however that was not to be the case and we ended the first half 12-0 down.
The second half really did mimic the first. Rushden were hard in attack and defense, the only difference really being that their fitness levels were slightly higher than ours. Where Stockwood had been able to support and keep the play tight in the first half, as the second half wore on Rushden were able to exploit our inability to close down quick enough. Too many times we had players making a run with no one there to pick up the pieces once tackled.
Unfortunately tempers flared midway through the second half as again some ‘after the whistle’ shenanigans took place between Rushden and Stockwood players. A cool head will always prevail and it was encouraging to see the Stockwood captain taking it upon himself to try and calm both sides down (something his Dad clearly wasn’t capable of doing earlier in the game).
Needless to say, I think it’s pretty encouraging to think that our players were able to frustrate such a well drilled opposition into needing to employ such tactics. As the half wore on Rushden began to find it easier to move the ball around and again their ability to exploit any gap was admirable.
The final score was 35-0, but like I said, I don’t think the scoreline reflects how well the boys played. The improvements made over the summer are there for everyone to see and so roll on this Sunday for our first league game of the season!
A quick mention to 3 players who made their Stockwood Park RFC debut on Sunday, well done to Lewis, Kyle and Stephen, great to have you on board!”