What a difference a week makes! Last Sunday was a cold, wet and miserable day compared to this Sunday when the sun was shining and there was barely a cloud in the sky!
Stockwood turned up with 17 players and our guests turned up with 14. A welcome back from injury to Alin, whose presence was more than welcome as we still have several backs out through injury and retirement! Riz lent Hitchin Luke for the first half to make up the numbers.
The old cliché of ‘a game of two halves’ really does explain how this match evolved. The first 20 minutes of the game was spent with both teams testing their opponents with neither side able to impose themselves. That was until Hitchin had a line out inside their own half, one they won but the Stockwood forwards piled on the pressure and pushed the Hitchin forwards back. The resulting ruck led to a Stockwood turnover which Will quickly passed to Kieran, who in turn released Max, who threw a nice dummy and then ran straight through the middle of Hitchin’s defence. He would have surely scored his third try of the season had it not been for a trailing leg that tripped him up before reaching the try line. As a result, the referee awarded Park a penalty try and conversion but I feel it only fair to credit Max with the try!!
Unfortunately, during the next passage of play one of the Hitchin boys got injured so Aadil came off the bench to play for them – injuries were to prove significant in the outcome of the game. The game seemed to open in the last fifteen minutes of the first half – starting with a strong run from one of Hitchin’s backs leading to a try and a conversion to tie the score at 7 points all.
Steven then stepped up from full back with two tries to make the score as the first half ended 17 points to 7 in Park’s favour. Steven’s first try came from a really good passage of play from Stockwood where they used the whole width of the pitch, first trying to break through down the right with no success before throwing the ball out to the right. A wayward pass was picked up by Steven who powered down the right wing before scoring the first of his two tries. Whereas, Steven’s first try was very much a team effort his second was because of a moment of individual brilliance, Kieran caught a Hitchin kick underneath the posts and offloaded the ball to Steven who spotted a gap and just ran the whole length of the pitch to score his second try. That was virtually the last action and a good first half was only spoilt by Jordan being withdrawn with a reoccurrence of a groin strain – an injury that meant he would not be able to play any further part in the game.
The second half started as a fourteen a side game with Stockwood coming out of the blocks quicker. Max attacked Hitchin’s back line again and from the resulting ruck Stockwood retained possession and Mark was released and although they tried Hitchin where unable to prevent him running the ball to score underneath the sticks, a try that was duly converted by Kieran to give Stockwood a 24 point to 7 lead. Unfortunately, Stockwood were unable to maintain the difference for long as Hitchin scored a try ad conversion immediately from their kick off making the score 24 points to 14.
The game then ebbed and flowed for the next ten minutes and Stockwood could have increased their lead with better decisions being taken at important moments. The momentum switched to Hitchin as Stockwood were to suffer two more injuries to Reece (shoulder) and Steven (ankle) and a further try and conversion to Hitchin.
With only four backs, the game became a twelve a side game and although Stockwood were given the chance to end the game early they chose to carry on. With only four fit backs for Stockwood the scrum size was reduced, and a few our forwards were moved to play for the backs. Gaps that had not been there for our opponents when it was a fifteen a side game started to appear, and Hitchin ran in a further two tries and on conversion to pinch a 33 points to 24 win.
I think that when the match was fifteen a side Stockwood more than held their own, but Hitchin were able to finish the stronger when the game was reduced to a 12 a side game. I am proud of the boys for the attitude they showed against a strong physical Hitchin team, their coach complimented the way we played as his side have been knocking teams down by 30 to 40 points and had it remained fifteen a side would it have ended differently?!!
Special mention to Luke and Aadil who both put a real shift in to allow the game to take place. Aadil impressed and his best moment was when he ripped the ball from Mark when he looked as though he was through for his second try of the day and Luke for using his body as a barrier in the first half in an attempt to stop Mark – Luke I didn’t catch this moment on video!!