Stanford 17 v 17 Thames
By Graham Loughran
THERE is always something special about a local derby and matches between these two teams normally offer a fair bit of discussion after the event, irrespective of the score line. Last season Thames did the double and Stanford was in no mood to let that happen again.
Thames kicked off and Aaron Kempster playing against his old club took the high ball driving back into the chasing pack. From there on the battle between the forwards was a tight and sometimes fraught affair. Throughout the game neither pack had total domination each taking their turn to force their game on the other.
Thames had the first points on the board when Stanford didn’t react quickly enough and the Thames centre walked in over the line. With what seemed a very easy kick to follow for the extra two points it looked like an uphill struggle for Stanford but the kick went wide and the score was 5 – 0 to the visitors.
Straight after the restart Stanford had to make a change with Captain Liam Morley taking a heavy knock to his leg but with good bench cover in the shape of Gary Burke the decision was made to take off their talisman leader.
Stanford now started to play some good rugby and should have been over the try line possibly 2 or 3 times but the last pass was to let them down every time. Troy Elkes at inside centre was running some excellent lines each time the pass went foul.
The first half came to a close with the score line still 0 – 5 in favour of Thames. At the break Danny Jackson gave way to Ryan Edgeway another of Stanford’s youth team making his break into the senior side.
With only 5 minutes gone on the clock Calum Reid had a chance to put Stanford on the score board and confidently brought the score to within 2 points. Whether the quick score or just the satisfaction that Stanford had achieved something for their persistent pressure was to blame, who knows but Thames saw their opportunity and immediately answered back with an unconverted try.
Aaron Payne at outside centre had been fairly quite up to this point of the game but up stepped the biggest hitter in the club flooring the Thames centre and breaking down what would have been a fast ball out wide. Matthew Rumble was quick to react and seeing a space behind the Thames line kicked. Rumbles kick was perfect and the bounce fell back into his arms after the bounce. Rumble didn’t have the legs to beat the covering defence but Dan McIntosh playing out of position on the wing was on hand to take Rumble’s well timed off load and McIntosh went under the posts for his very first try for Stanford. Reid Added the two points to bring the score line to 10 a piece.
Ringing the changes in the front row Dan May stepped aside for Matthew Murphy to take over but within 2 minutes Murphy along with one of the Thames props had been shown a yellow
Both teams knew it would now be the slimmest of margins that won the game and both teams tried to grind out the win. Thames were able to make their moment pay and ran in their third try of the day, this time in front of the posts the kick was converted. Thames now led by 7 points with just under 20 minutes to play.
Stanford had come back before and in regards of territory had pretty much the larger share so when they found themselves back in the Thames half and creeping towards the line they had to make sure that they came away with the required points.
With about 7 minutes on the clock Stanford were awarded a penalty and knowing their line out had been outstanding all day they opted to kick for touch. Again Stanford claimed their lineout ball and went route one towards the posts. The forwards rolled the maul several times before Reid released the ball to Jack Kenworthy, who dummied one pass, stepped outside his tackler and stretched for the line, 5 points. Reid had no trouble in bringing his side back level at 17 all.
From the kick off Thames asserted pressure but the Stanford defence held firm and Thames were penalised at the break down. Thames frustration boiled over and ill-discipline saw them marched back. The following penalty took Stanford into the Thames half who again infringed.
With no time for a line out Reid put himself forward to kick, which sat about 2 metres inside the Thames half. Reid’s tally for the day up to now was 1 penalty from 3 and two conversions but he was confident and so he should have been. The rec went completely silent and in the true spirit of rugby not even a visiting supporter or player spoke. Reid’s kick was high and long the direction was right or at least that is what it looked like as the ball just shaved the outside of the far upright.
The game finished with both teams taking a hard fought draw, both could have taken the points but both had missed their chances.
Stanford 1st XV continue in the league next Saturday with a trip to Burnham RFC.