Thursday, December 1, 2022

Rugby: Stanford back to winning ways

Kings Steelers 10 v 43 Stanford

With 14 1st team players unavailable out of a squad of 25 it’s was Stanford’s 2nd team who stepped up to the call.
Stanford started off the game in good fashion with strong runs into the Kings Cross Steeler’s defence. With a penalty far left the Stanford pack drove forward pulling in the Steeler’s players, the ball was then shipped wide with quick hands to Aaron Payne who beat the first tackle and was just short of the line, however his centre pairing Mark Shuttleworth was on hand to drive over to open the scoring after 5 minutes. The windy conditions didn’t aid the conversion and the extra 2 points went begging.

Steelers now started to play their rugby and didn’t look like a side that are propping up the bottom of the league. Steelers were powerful in the scrums and quick to ship the ball in open play. A clearance kick under pressure by Stanford went wrong and Stanford were found scrambling back to protect their line. It wasn’t long before Steelers managed to breach the Stanford defence and level the game at 5 a piece with their conversion not finding its mark.

Steelers were really up for the fight and Stanford found it hard to control the constant assault. When Stanford had the ball they played some great link play but each time forced the final pass out of panic or just poor decision making to allow Steelers to stay in the game.

Just on 19 minutes, Danny Jackson playing blindside flanker, was changed out to allow Simon Rumble to step into the second row of the scrum and Gary Burke to take over Jackson’s position. Immediately the experience of Rumble steadied the scrum and Stanford had parity. The game continued to flow back and forth with both sides making handling error after handling error.

Stanford was forced to make their 2nd change of the game when on 33 minutes Darren Latter playing hooker, went down with a groin strain. Ready on the touch line was one of Stanford’s iconic players in David Payne, he came and could immediately could be heard pumping up the younger players around him, which pushed the Stanford players on and the last 7 minutes of the 1st half was all Stanford but credit to the Steelers defence they held firm.

At half time some strong words were said to get the Stanford team readying them for the 2nd half. With two tactical changes made Max Murphy for Rhys Smith-Allen on the wing and Burke swapping with Jackson at blindside flanker.

The 2nd half restart was perfection from Matthew Rumble with Sam Herbert clattering the receiving Steeler to the ground and the ball spilling back to Stanford. From the following scrum Calum Reid saw the wide open space behind the Steelers backs and pushed the ball forward. 1st team debutant Jamie McDermott playing on the wing had lighting pace and was first onto the ball he brushed off the cover tackles and placed the ball down to record his first try for Stanford just after 6 minutes of play in the 2nd half. Reid stepped up and was spot on with his conversion to add the extra 2 points.

Steelers now received another blow as they were penalised for diving straight over at the ruck too many times and were reduced to 14 men just before 12 minutes had been played.

Stanford now had the bit between their teeth and was playing much better controlled rugby and once again Reid saw the space. His kick was inch perfect and fullback William Edwards was so fast that he out stripped all others to score his 1st try for Stanford. This time the width was just too much and the conversion missed the mark.

Only two minutes later Herbert sprinted forward with ball in hand, he stepped the first tackler then the next, he went round the remaining tackles and was in a foot race to the line with the Steelers remaining cover tackler. The line break was something very special but the cover tackle which was made inside the in goal area was fantastic taking man and ball which thwarted Herbert’s sure on try.

Now with all the play going Stanford’s way the pack were really taking charge in all open plays. Eddie Ryan steeling loose line out ball at will and James Hunter was hit tackles so hard that the ball was presented back to the Stanford men.

With a penalty about 10metres out and tight to line Reid fed the power runners, a quick set saw Rhys Smith-Allen step in off his wing to hit the space and give Stanford their fourth try of the day and a guaranteed bounce point. Reid slotted the extra two points with a well-crafted kick, after 16 minutes of play.

Danny Jackson had excelled himself since coming on having been part of every power play and now took a well-earned rest changing with Burke. Jackson was only to get a very short rest as Sam Herbert who had lead from the front all game dislocated his fingers and was sent away to hospital immediately.

Liam Morley had been his usual dominant hard hitting self and it was only a matter of time before he went over the Steelers line after 25 minutes of play, sadly the conversion was just wide. Matthew Rumble playing at 10 had been distributing and line breaking all game. Just on the hour of play he cut inside then back outside and was sprinting for the line when he badly twisted his ankle and was forced from the remaining 20 minutes of the game.

With the new law changes Murphy was able to re take his place on the wing, Smith-Allen pushed into the centres and Shuttleworth took over from Rumble at 10. Within 1 minute of the changes Reid put the ball into Shuttleworth’s hands, he shaped to pass but then broke the line and scored under the posts for his 2nd of the match and Stanford’s 6th. Reid added the extra 2 points.

Stanford were not finished and again they going through the phases with much more confidence than had been seen in the first half. Stanford’s 7th and final try of the game came from another well worked forwards and backs phase of play with Smith-Allen once again joining in the play from his wing and going straight under the posts. Reid was once again on target for the extra 2 points.

Steelers are a spirited team and had given the Stanford team and good hard game but they were not finished and almost from the restart they collected the ball and hit route one for the Stanford line. Steelers support play was very good and maybe if they had been able to retain more ball during the 2nd half the score may have been different. Steelers had the Stanford defence on the back foot and went over for a consolation try on 35 minutes but as they had been push wide the conversion was short. The game finished with Stanford winning 43 – 10, with 7 tries and the extra bonus point to go with the four of the win.

It’s an old cliché but it was truly a game of two halves, the 1st saw Stanford not perform to their best the 2nd they stepped up and played the rugby that they have been striving to play this season. Stanford 1st XV now take a few weeks break from league action but are not getting a rest as they have the 2nd round of the President’s Shield, the opposition and venue are yet to be confirmed.

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