Stamford RFC gave themselves a slim chance of avoiding relegation with a 20-17 away win at West Bridgford on Saturday in the Midlands Two East North Division.
Stamford kicked off to Bridgford and started well, building phases and putting pressure on the hosts but it came to nothing and Bridgford were able to clear their lines. This seemed to be the pattern for the first 15 minutes with Stamford weighing heavy on the attack, all over the park, with Bridgford only preventing scores with last-ditch tackles.
After 20 minutes of play, Stamford won a five metre scrum, with the ball coming to the number eight’s feet, Gareth Ramsden controlled well before picking up and powering over the line taking two Bridgford defenders with him. Tom Lindley added the extras to make it 7-0 Stamford.
Bridgford kicked back to Stamford, allowing a strong carry from the forwards and silky running from the backs to gain territory in the Bridgford half again.
Stamford took it through several phases, before Bridgford infringed at the breakdown and the referee awarded Stamford a penalty in front of the posts, 22 metres out. Lindley stepped up again, adding 3 points. Stamford were now leading 10 - 0 and looking much the stronger side.
Ten minutes before half time, Bridgford made a couple of useful breaks, with the visitors pulling them down before they could do any real damage. With Stamford in possession however, and attacking up the touch line, an attempted chip over the top of their defence was gathered by the Bridgford centre, giving him a clear run into the line and under the posts, adding the conversion to make it 7-10.
To make matters worse three minutes before half time Stamford were penalised at the breakdown, with the kick being awarded and Bridgeford opting for posts, leaving the score 10-10 with everything to play for.
Stamford did have one more scoring opportunity before half time, Lindley addressing a difficult penalty kick, 30 yards out and to the right of the posts, but his effort rebounded off the left upright and allowed West Bridgford to clear into touch as the last play of the half.
Ten minutes into the second half the hosts took the lead after some lackluster tackling from Stamford allowed them in for a converted try.
Stamford were now trailing for the first time in the game with Bridgford able to score 17 unanswered points. The next 20 minutes saw a very even contest, with both teams running and tackling hard, there were more opportunities to come and nothing to choose between the 2 sides. It was exciting, end to end rugby and the match was hanging in the balance.
Bridgford came closest first, as the ball came from the back of a ruck 20 metres out with a three man overlap, they moved the ball to the wing and it looked like an inevitable score, but Stamford’s cover defence, Chris Fletcher and Tom Lindley, put a massive double hit in on the Bridgford winger, only a metre from the try line and dragged him in to touch.
With 64 minutes on the clock, Stamford skipper Austin Schwarz found himself at the base of the ruck, spotting that both wingers were up flat, he opted for a perfectly weighted box kick over the Bridgford defence and into the corner 10 metres out.
Bridgford chose to take the line out quickly enabling Schwarz to pressure the receiver causing him to fumble. The skipper was then able to gather and scramble over the line to score a converted try with Lindley adding the extra two points to bring the scores level at 17-17.
The next 15 minutes were pretty tense, you could feel the atmosphere change as the Stamford boys chased the win, they worked tirelessly in the loose and continued to get all over the park, chopping down Bridgford attacks before they were mounted, their endeavour was clear to see.
With just 8 minutes to go, Bridgford were penalised for holding on. Stamford prop James Green was the first to the breakdown on the half way line, getting over the ball and the Bridgford support failing to clear him out resulted in a penalty to Stamford. Backchat from the Bridgford players resulted in the referee marching them back a further 10 metres, putting a penalty kick well within Lindley’s range. Without hesitation, a sweet strike sailed perfectly between the uprights for a 20-17 lead.
More frenetic action followed, with Bridgford allowing Stamford centre Chris Fletcher to make good yards down the left hand side, with Lindley in support. Fletcher fed Lindley, leaving him with a little bit to do, beating two defenders but although he was tackled short by a third, Lindley managed to stretch over the line, only for the try to be disallowed. The frustration from Stamford was palpable, as was the confusion from Bridgford, who obviously felt that the visitors had been hard done by.
With two minutes to go, Stamford were awarded yet another penalty, Bridgford once again infringing at the breakdown in desperation. Lindley stepped up, but this time, the ball struck the right upright and Bridgford scrambled to clear, resulting in a lineout going into the final play.
Stamford were sure to win their own ball and it was booted firmly into touch by scrum half Robbie Smith for the win.
Tomorrow, mid-table side Ashbourne travel to Stamford for the last home game of the season.
Stamford Rugby Club publicitity officer Pip Warters said the club would like to extend a warm invitation to all to come and lend their support.
He said: “We’re planning to spark up the BBQ and hold an earlier fixture as a curtain raiser to the main event at 3pm.”
“It makes all the difference when there’s a good crowd on the touchline. We’ll be opening the bar early and serving discounted ales. Please lend us your support if you can, it promises to be a very entertaining afternoon of rugby.”