Bishop's Stortford 1st XV 41 Old Elthamians 13
Stortford achieve promotion to National 2 South on the 10th anniversary of their last promotion to what was then London 1. After 15 years in London 2, a mere 10 years at level 5 shows growing sense of urgency!
Old Elthamians, clearly came determined to make their mark and dominated early possession and territory, as the home side showed some early nerves. This was quickly turned into a 6 point lead for the visitors, via the ever-reliable boot of fullback, Tom White, capitalising on 2 penalties at breakdowns after 6 and 14 minutes. By this time, Stortford had already lost winger, Joe Clarke to a recurrence of his hamstring injury, but Wayne Child came on as a like for like replacement. A crucial swing in fortunes occurred after 18 minutes, when OEs’ scrumhalf, John Hosken was yellow carded for a trip. Stortford quickly took advantage of the extra man and were awarded a penalty try after 21 minutes, as the pack drove for the visitors’ line from some 10 metres out and were thwarted only by the maul being pulled down. OEs were made to pay the full price for this cynical offence, when the culprit, second row, Paddy Green was yellow-carded. Tom Coleman’s conversion from in front of the posts took his side into a 1 point lead. This was extended to 8 points after 31 minutes, when number 8, Mark McCraith touched down close to the posts after Wayne Child, brother, Jono and Sam Winter ran back a poor OEs’ kick out of defence and Coleman added the 2 points. At this point, a speculative long pass by Stortford on the visitors’ 22 was intercepted and it took great cover defence from Winter to first of all head off the OEs’ breakout and then tackle top try scorer, Renford Bennett, as he headed for the Stortford line to prevent a try. After 38 minutes, a driving maul off a second successive 5 metre lineout brought a third try for Stortford, as flanker, Richard Gill marked his first start after a bad injury back in October in the best possible way. A great conversion from the touchline by Coleman took the score to 21-6 and only some tremendous last ditch defence by OEs prevented a fourth try to the home side just before halftime, as centre, John Stocker was held up over the line, following a tremendous box kick from scrumhalf, Sam Coleman.
Stortford started the second half in the same positive vein that the first period had finished and the crucial fourth (bonus point winning) try was scored by Stocker after only 4 minutes, breaking through a couple of tackles to dive over out near the righthand touchline. Another tremendous Coleman conversion stretched the lead to 28-6. Coleman added another 3 points to his and his team’s tally 10 minutes into the half, as the visitors were penalised at a breakdown. OEs were still not beaten, however, and it took a great cover tackle from Wayne Child after 30 minutes to end a threatening run from Bennett, who had otherwise been well policed by the home side. The dangerous winger made his presence felt again some 5 minutes later, though, when a strong crossfield run was halted only by a high tackle by Jono Child. This produced a yellow card for the Stortford man and led immediately to a try for the visitors under the posts, as the resultant penalty was taken quickly and the home defence was, for once, caught on the hop. White had no problem with the conversion, taking the score to 31-13. Within 2 minutes, Stortford found themselves down to 13 men, when Chris Aldam was yellow-carded, apparently for over-vigorous use of the boot at a ruck. This time, though, OEs were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage and Stortford managed to push them back onto defence, producing a second try for Stocker after 42 minutes, following a clever crosskick by Tom Coleman. This time the touchline conversion attempt proved too difficult for the flyhalf and, totally uncharacteristically, he again missed from almost in front of the posts only a minute later, after centre, Marcus Cattell had run in unopposed, when the restart dropout was allowed to bounce and jumped straight into his hands. This was the final action of the match, leaving Stortford as 41-13 winners.
A tremendous end to a great season for the side and with something in excess of 1,000 spectators on the touchlines, a fantastic occasion for the whole Club, which went on long into the night!!