Stamford secure vital win at home

James O'Shea redefining the term nutmeg. Photo: Pip Warters - acelensman.com EMN-150104-165734001
James O'Shea redefining the term nutmeg. Photo: Pip Warters - acelensman.com EMN-150104-165734001

The great escape is one for Stamford RUFC. On Saturday Stamford beat Ashbourne 25-5 at Empingham Road to give themselves hope of avoiding the drop from Midlands Two East North.

They currently sit second from bottom in the final relegation position in the league with just one game to play.

On the last day of the season on April 11, Stamford, who are in 11th position and have 32 points, travel to bottom of the league and already relegated Ashby knowing that nothing but a win will do.

The bad news is Stamford also need other results to go their way, the good news is there is a decent chance that they will.

Tenth place Loughborough, who are on 33 points, play third place Market Bosworth. A purple, black and whites victory and Loughborough loss would see the sides trade places and give salvation to Stamford.

Dronfield in ninth currently are also not clear of the danger yet but they do have a game in hand on the other sides scrapping to avoid relegation.

Dronfield have 34 points, and host Ashbourne tomorrow before welcoming top of the league Matlock to Gosforth Fields for a potential must win match.

On Saturday a well prepared Stamford won the toss and started up the hill into the wind. Despite the added geographical and weather challenges they settled into the game, building some solid phases through some dominant forward play

However the heavier Ashbourne pack were domination up front and it took some stoci Stamford’s defending to suppress them.

Midway through the first half Stamford winger Guy Michels made a fantastic solo break, leaving his opposite number in his wake. Unfortunately, an injury in the process meant he would have to leave the field, allowing winger Dan Thompson to join the fray.

Town held strong and denied the Derbyshire side access for the first 40 minutes in an evenly contested first half with both sides trading time in each other’s territory.

Asbourne battered Stamford’s line with their hard runners but they were knocked back time after time, running into Stamford’s unyielding defence and at half time the scores were 0-0 which was a far better result for the hosts.

With the slope and wind at their backs Stamford upped their game and took their game up a notch. It wasn’t long before winger James O’Shea took first blood and finished in the corner, with a well worked try, leaving the winger with three men to beat, but powering towards the line, taking two defenders with him, eventually stretching between the full back’s legs to make the score. Stamford were unable to add the extras.

A frustrated Ashbourne began to infringe at the breakdown, on one occasion, in their own 22, right in front of the posts. Will Mardling slotted the penalty to add three points.

Stamford’s replacement winger Thompson crossed the line next, gathering a kick and running it back with intent, powering through several tackles and finishing in the corner. The swirling wind made kicking from the touchline difficult and Stamford had to settle for 13-0 lead.

Ashbourne soon made a rare visit into Stamfords 22, following several strong scrummages and a couple of lineouts. Once again, their number 8 picked up at the back of a scrum, managed to penetrate the gain line and scrabble over the line for a scrappy try. Missing the conversion, this would prove to be Ashbourne’s last score of the game and only outing into Stamford’s half.

To the delight of the many spectators, the next 15 minutes saw some of the most exciting rugby that Stamford has played this season. The constant battering of the Ashbourne defence had taken its toll and the home side was keen to finish them off. After an exciting build up, on the back of some great phases, a well worked move saw winger Thompson evade the full back and cross over in the corner again for his second.

More punishment was to follow for a fatigued Ashbourne and Stamford could sense they were close to a bonus point win. O’Shea was about to score a fourth try for Stamford, but an untimely whistle meant it wasn’t to be.

With just 5 minutes to go, Stamford threw everything at them, it was clear to all that they wanted the extra point, working really hard as a team to try and make it happen. The last play of the game saw a huge effort from the forwards, culminating in fast hands to the wing and a payback for O’Shea as he crossed over in the corner to make it 25-5 to Stamford.

Stamford Skipper Austin Schwarz said: “This was a great result and one that the boys have worked hard to prepared for. There wasn’t really an individual that stood out on the day, this was proper, 15 man rugby, everybody did his job and did it exceptionally well.”

Stamford First XV play in a semi-final at home against Grimsby next week, followed by their last league game.