DMP 34 Bishop's Stortford First XV26
By John Allanson
An evenly-fought game, with errors on both sides, but the home team's greater ability to take opportunities carries the day.
Stortford started both halves well, but were unable to press home their advantage and contrived on each occasion to turn over ball without registering a score and the home side took full advantage. It took more than 10 minutes of the first period for DMP to even lay their hands on the ball but, having done so, quickly made the most of the opportunity, kicking a penalty for a 5 metre lineout, from which they were able to drive over the line for a converted try after 15 minutes. The visitors, though bounced back and good breaks by Steve Ball and Rob Duff stretched the home defence to breaking point, with Dan Elsom on hand to add the touchdown. Unfortunately, in doing so, the flanker incurred an injury, which ended his involvement in the game, Oli Jones coming on as replacement. The home side bounced back and exploited some uncharacteristically loose tackling out wide to score a soft try, which again was well converted to stretch the lead to 9 points. Stortford, buoyed by an unusually dominant scrum worked their way into the home 22 but, with time before the break running out, they gave up an easy turnover by failing to support strongly enough a 2nd or 3rd phase drive.
Stortford reshuffled their whole backline at the break, which must have been a factor in a somewhat disjointed defensive effort early in the second period, of which DMP took full advantage, albeit needing a friendly bounce from a chip ahead to produce a third converted try after 5 minutes. Stortford, though were far from finished and tries after 12 minutes to Baxter Wilson and Sam Cappaert 6 minutes later, both converted by the flyhalf narrowed the deficit to 2 points. Unfortunately, the visitors were unable to maintain the pressure and conceded 3 points to a penalty for offside under their posts with 27 minutes of the half gone. Worse was soon to come, as the home side's forwards won the restart convincingly and swept immediately almost to the Stortford line. Once again, the hosts showed how to press home territorial advantage and within 4 or 5 phases registered their 4th try to move 12 points ahead, with some 8 minutes to go. Within two minutes, though, Stortford had struck back, when a great snipe up the middle from Tom Banks and a clever rolling kick ahead put Rob Duff clear. The bounce this time did not favour the attacking side, with the winger having to wait for a bounce such that he was caught from behind, but Harrison King was on hand to take the offload and touch down under the posts for the visitors' bonus point try. DMP kept their noses ahead with another penalty goal after 77 minutes, but still Stortford stormed back at them, winning a 5 metre lineout. Unfortunately, the drill went slightly awry and DMP were able to turn the ball over and gratefully kick the ball dead to end the match.
In the end, a slightly disappointing end to a closely-fought contest, with Baller and Tommo being deprived of what might so easily have been a winning farewell to their rugby-playing days - or might we just see them out there again, one of these fine days?! Both players were loudly cheered off the pitch by the huge band of travelling Stortford supporters.