Stockwood Park U17s went down 34-19 to Shelford U17B on Sunday morning in an entertaining, though frustrating from our point of view, game of end to end rugby.
Once again Park made their traditional slow start conceding in the first 5 minutes to a try from the back of a Shelford line-out and again shortly after, a few well worked phases found Shelfords centres in space for their second score. Park did respond well though to the poor start and started to assert themselves back into the game. A good turnover in midfield and quick reactions from Alfie Sibilia saw Sam Tenny break free and release Romario Pelle with an excellent offload out of the tackle to score our first try.
From the restart Park failed to claim the high ball, and after a strong Shelford run suddenly found themselves back on their own 5 metre line, and with a disorganised defence in front of them Shelford used quick hands to move the ball into the spaces left behind and scored. The last play of the first half saw us become the architects of our own downfall once again with a Park scrum 10 metres out the hook evaded the entire pack and scrum half, and bounced just right for the Shelford scrum half to pick up and score. Half time 20-5.
Into the second half and a No.8 pick up from the base of the scrum saw Sam Tenny drive over for a try, converted by Kieran Taylor. Though back in the game at 20-12 Park did not capitalise on the change in momentum. Several times we saw overlaps out wide go begging and the ball being coughed up far too easily in contact. Unable to sustain the pressure and keep the ball in our own possession in the away 22 Park saw Shelford break out several times by utilising their wider men, only to be thwarted by an inspired display of tackling from James Brennan at full back. Eventually though a set move from a line out paid off for Shelford and they broke away through 5 missed tackles to score under the posts.
Park though, got their act together again, and their never say die attitude came to the fore. We worked through a few good phases drew in defenders and released our backs, something we are desperately trying to reinforce in training rather than the somewhat more predictable solo runners, and this style eventually saw Shelford run out of defenders for Sam Tenny to crash over for his second try. Another well worked set of phases saw our centre Louis Palmer to get to within 5m out, only for the final pass which would have put the winger in to be deemed slightly forwards by the referee. Shelford responded again in this basketball like, to and fro game with a nice backs move to extend their lead to 34-19. Park were camped inside the Shelford half towards the end of the game and found themselves with the try line begging and an overlap on the outside, however this time the crash ball was tried one too many times with the ruck defence well set and the ball was lost in contact. From that, a kick clearance was made by Shelford and a comedy of errors saw a mix up on half way between our full back and winger with us then somehow ending up hacking the ball back to our own try line. Try line attack to try line defence inside 15 seconds, and although we did not concede from the error we never got back up the pitch again to threaten before the final whistle. Lots of positives to take from the game, the score line not reflecting the closeness of the game, but also clearly some lessons to be learnt. Shelford were excellent hosts and we look forward to bringing them back to Stockwood later in the season, hopefully by which time we will have settled into our style of play and ironed out the individual errors.