Taunton 20 Bishop's Stortford First XV 15
By John Allanson
Stortford unable to sustain winning momentum against ferocious Taunton fightback in second half.
Playing directly into the breeze, Stortford started badly, botching their reception of the first dropout and almost immediately conceding a penalty, which Taunton fullback, Kingdom kicked for a three point lead. Stortford worked their way back into the game, though, with their pacy backs often looking dangerous. They duly produced the first try of the game after 18 minutes, when Dom Morris skinned the opposition left winger and threw a great long pass inside to Tom Coleman, who lobbed up a beautifully weighted pass for Sam Winter to run onto and touch down under the posts. Dotta’s conversion took the score to 3-7 and the margin was soon stretched to 9 points, when debutant, James Apperley made a great break from the restart kick reception, was supported by Rorie Young, Dec Caulfield and Richard Gill, who combined to put Sam Coleman almost to the line. Quick hands from the breakdown allowed Morris to exploit a multiple overlap for the try on 21 minutes, which Dotta was unable to convert. Taunton powered back and a missed tackle by Stortford in midfield allowed the outside centre to burst through and give winger, Jack Claydon a clear run to the line after 25 minutes, giving Gary Kingdom an easy conversion to narrow the deficit to 2 points. Taunton now came increasingly into the game, putting pressure on the Stortford scrum. Kingdom missed a long penalty attempt at goal after 35 minutes, but was successful with the final action of the half to put his side a point ahead, when Stortford were penalised for a blatant handling offence at a ruck. This followed some strong direct running by the Taunton side, but frustratingly, the visitors seemed to have snuffed out any danger, when the penalty was conceded.
The second half was a much more dour affair, with the home side coming out determined to strangle Stortford’s game at source, with a powerful forward-orientated game. Stortford nevertheless managed to regain the lead after 3 minutes via a Dotta penalty for a blatant offside offence at a ruck under the Taunton posts. Unfortunately, he was unable to repeat the success 8 minutes later, from a similar position, for a further breakdown offence by the Taunton 7, who saw yellow for his sins. The goal attempt was thwarted in unusual fashion, when the ball fell off the tee, just as Pier was starting his run-up. Instinctively he ran forward, picked up the ball and, when blocked from attempting a drop goal tried to run the ball. The referee seemed inclined to allow another kick at goal but, on the advice of one of his assistants, instead awarded a scrum to Taunton. Net result, no points to Stortford. This, naturally did nothing to dampen the resurgent Taunton side’s efforts and Stortford never really looked like being able to exploit the one man advantage. The same applied when the Taunton 13 was also sin-binned after 20 minutes for taking out Nick Hankin, as he jumped bravely to catch a high crosskick from the home flyhalf. In fact, by this stage, the visitors were hardly able to get their hands on the ball, as Taunton’s stranglehold on the scrums was tightened and Stortford’s lineout – previously, very impressive- started to struggle. Such was Taunton’s level of control now that they in fact managed to score the deciding try of the match with only 14 men. Ironically, this followed one of Stortford’s very few incursions into Taunton territory when they kicked a penalty into touch in the opposition half. The lineout ball though was badly overthrown and it took only one missed tackle on a rampaging Taunton loose forward to see him sprinting into Stortford’s half, where he found left winger, Claydon unmarked to run in under the posts after 32 minutes to make Kingdom’s conversion a formality. Stortford’s frantic efforts to battle their way back into the game in the remaining ten minutes met with stern Taunton resistance and the home side saw the time out relatively comfortably.