Rugby: Stanford go close against Thurston

STANFORD fought a bruising and bloody battle in the cup against Thurston RFC, the same opponents 3 years running.

When the draw was made for this year’s Junior Vase Cup and Stanford were pitched against Thurston RFC for the 3rd consecutive year in a row, instead of dread, after having lost the previous two encounters, Stanford were pleased to be doing battle with a team that they could really see how far they had come in the two previous seasons.

Stanford had over 20 players unavailable this weekend due to work or injury yet the 1st XV took to the field as a strong, solid and determined side. The starting XV had senior debuts for Kyle Munro, Nick Sharp and Jack Lee who have come through the youth teams at Stanford and all had impressed during preseason training and friendlies.

The start was perfect, Jack Kenworthy lofted a high ball which under pressure the Thurston 2nd row dropped causing a knock on. With the new scrum laws still very fresh it would be interesting to see how both side coped. Thurston had the upper hand but Liam Morley managed to scope up the ball to keep play moving forward. It looked like Stanford may open the scoring early but one too many forced moves saw the ball spin loose and Thurston cleared their lines from deep.

The next few minutes were played inside the Stanford 22 and both teams battled to make any ground. One passage of play saw Thurston move the ball wide but the ball went forward from hand, expecting advantage the Stanford pack made a grab for the free ball but only to knock on themselves. The following scrum was awarded to Thurston as the official had not seen the 1st infringement. From the scrum Thurston set the base and drove several pods into the solid Stanford line, but one too many hits came and Thurston drove over for the first points of the day. Having pushed the visitors wide the conversation was missed.

From the restart Thurston again spilt the ball and then infringed at the set piece. Kenworthy immediately stepped despite the blustery conditions, his kick was just wide of the mark so the score stayed 5 – 0 to the visitors.
The next few minutes were horrendous for the home side. First Luke Seeley was injured after forcing Thurston into touch. He was replaced by Greg Rumble who drove into the first ruck after coming on and was raked heavily across the back of the head, opening up a very deep 3 to four inch gash. Player safety being most important the game was held up for 20 minutes whilst an ambulance was called to attend to the injury. Thankfully Rumble returned later that day with 6 stitches and a very sore head.

With Rumble leaving the pitch after just two minutes Reece Anderson was brought on to add his strength and experience to the affray. Not long after Rumbles departure Danny Jackson went down with a cut just centimetres below his right eye; this could only have been caused by some close quarters foul play. Thankfully Jackson was able to continue, but this was to cause him problems throughout the remainder of the game and by the evening his eye had completely close from swelling. The remained of the first half was a very tight game with Stanford holding up Thurston to deny them a 2nd score and Stanford driving towards the visitor’s line only to be beaten back.

Stanford’s constant pressure in the last 10 minutes of the first half finally paid off and Kenworthy slotted a penalty straight in front of the posts, to bring half time to a close at 3 – 5 in favour of Thurston.

The 2nd half didn’t start how Stanford would have liked and some poor positioning and weak tackles saw Thurston cross the line again the conversion was missed.

Stanford’s line outs had working well with Jack Lee hit his man each time. Mark O’Connell was outstanding with his lineout work and clearing out and just after 15 minutes of play he nearly finished off a fantastic flowing move that saw Stanford hit drive and keep the ball alive but it was Thurston’s turn this time to hold up the attack just over the try line.

The 2nd half continued to be a very well contested game and Stanford most certainly deserved something more for their efforts. With just 5 minutes to go Kenworthy had a chance to bring the score line to within just four and he didn’t disappoint with his 2nd converted penalty off the day.

With the score 6 -10 and Stanford very much on the attack an all out assort was made towards the Thurston line but Stanford just couldn’t convert the pressure to points. To the very end Stanford battled but just couldn’t get the rewards they so richly deserved.

Although a third loss in three years Stanford had shown how far they had come in that time and who knows if the draw for next year’s Junior Vase should pitch these two teams together again it would be a fool that didn’t have a wager on Stanford being victorious.

Next Week Stanford 1st XV begin their league campaign against local rivals Thames RFC at the REC Kick off 3pm.

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