Bishop's Stortford 1st XV 57 Plymouth Albion 24
By John Allanson
For their fifth bonus point win in a row since being firmly in the relegation zone, Stortford produce their best 80 minutes to date to sweep aside 7th placed Plymouth.
Stortford started with a bang, winning the ball from their own opening dropout and embarking on multiple phases of attacking rugby to stretch the visitors' defence and allow George Cullen to dummy and force his way over for a try with barely a minute gone. Tom Banks converted to stretch the lead, but the visitors bounced back to exert considerable pressure on the Stortford line, a try being saved only thanks to a great cover tackle by George Keen. The centre, unfortunately was injured in the process and had to make way for Club skipper, Sam Winter, himself returning from a few weeks' injury. Plymouth were not to be denied, though and the scores were levelled, when hooker, Jamie Salter went over for a try on 7 minutes from a well-controlled drive from a 5 metre lineout, with Matt Shepherd making the conversion. The home lead was quickly restored, however, with Nick Hankin scoring a tremendous solo try barely a minute later, after he took a defensive kick just inside the opposition half to scythe through the first line of defence and then step a couple of covering defenders to touch down by the posts, giving Banks an easy conversion. The points margin was widened some 5 minutes later, when Cullen scored his second try, chipping ahead and regathering to outpace the cover after a good dart by Joss Linney. The conversion was missed after the ball blew over, as Banks began his run-up. Back came Plymouth, who were also looking threatening on the ball and they registered their second try through centre, Seta Raumakita after another powerful forward drive from an attacking lineout. Shepherd again converted to bring his side within one score, but Stortford tightened their defence and made the final score of the half after 32 minutes, when Hankin got his second try, finishing off some excellent team handling as the ball pinged to and fro through many hands. Banks made a tremendous conversion from the touchline to establish a 14 point lead at the break, but this was maintained only thanks to a tremendous cover tackle from Linney just before the whistle, forcing his opposite number into touch just before he touched the ball down over the line.
The lead was quickly halved after the restart, as Stortford, in trying to run back the opening dropout, had the ball ripped in contact, with Raumakita quickly seizing on the ball to crash over for his second try and Shepherd converting. Any memories of previous losses snatched from the jaws of victory were quickly dispelled, though, when skipper, Matt Tomlinson crashed over for a try after 48 minutes, despite some good Plymouth defence, that had held out a sustained Stortford attack, with Cullen and Banks to the fore. The conversion was missed, but Banks made no mistake only 3 minutes later, when Joss Linney rounded off another good backs move, taking a well-timed scoring pass from Hankin to round the last defender and touch down under the posts. Stortford were now clearly in control and scored another try after 61 minutes, with Seb Brownhill diving over the top of a ruck on the Plymouth line to touch down and provide Banks with another relatively easy 2 points. A moment of carelessness among the home team's backs allowed Plymouth to score their bonus point try after 69 minutes, when a loose, long pass in midfield was easily intercepted by an alert forward, who was able to gallop over and give his fullback an easy conversion. Stortford's generosity ended there, though, as they finished with two further tries on 75 and78 minute. The first went to Tom Banks after good runs by Rob Duff and Tom Coleman each threatened the line but were halted by last ditch tackles, after a tremendous run from the winger. The conversion from under the posts was made by Cullen. Perhaps the most popular try of the day, however, went to Baxter Wilson, who was making his first appearance of the season after a prolonged injury absence. The flanker, on as a replacement showed that his lay-off has not taken away any of his speed, as he stepped and burst his way over out wide from some 15 metres out, following another good run by Duff.
The Price Bailey man of the match award went to Tom Banks, at his lively best, but he would probably recognize himself that in today's tremendous team performance there were many strong contenders. The whole squad is clearly gaining in confidence, week by week, with the First team's performance backed up on the adjoining pitch by a tremendous win for our Blues against Richmond Vikings, who lose to very few second XVs.