Stratford 52 Silhillians 0
Midlands Two West (South)
DESPITE very cold and wet conditions, Stratford played with skill, pace and tempo to run in eight unanswered tries in a display of rugby which moved them up to third and will have sent a real message out to the rest of the division.
The black and white hoops dominated from the very first whistle. A Sils clearance kick was fielded well by full-back Jo Cook who counter-attacked, beating two defenders before setting flying winger Dan Whitby free.
Whitby rounded his man to slide in under the sticks and it was 7-0 inside three minutes. Quickly Stratford were back in the Sils 20m zone and a lineout led to a series of pick and drives, with impressive ball carrier Gus Whitman barraging over for the first of his brace of tries.
Stratford continued to dominate their opponents in all aspects of play. Number 8 Si Greenwood was impressive again, firstly as the team’s ball carrier, consistently getting well beyond the gain line, and in melting a series of Sils runners in defence.
His output was made possible by the work rate of back row partners Jonny Smith and Dan Dunmore and hooker Ben Cole, playing his 50th game for the 1st XV, only just over two seasons since making his debut.
Further first half tries from fly half Nathan Geekie and Ben Cole helped Stratford turn around 26-0 up, but it was not all plain sailing as Stratford lost Greenwood to a large laceration above his eye which later required a trip to Warwick A&E and nine stitches and the heavy ball carrying second row Geoff Dyson to a shoulder injury.
Stratford’s 18-man squad, however, is full of quality and on came John Bruns, who is part of the senior leadership group and veteran Dave Pritchard to maintain the pressure being applied.
The message from the coaching staff was simple – keep doing what you are doing, trust your skills and back yourselves. This meant the second half went much the same as the first.
With Greenwood coming off, inside centre Jack Young stepped up his ball carrying game, punching holes in the Sils defence at will. One such foray led to a kick ahead followed up by centre partner Sam Kirby to score a lovely sliding try.
A further try from scrum half Will Matthews essentially put the contest to bed but Stratford still did not let up. Defending their own gain line aggressively and with a sense of personal pride. Pritchard scored from a pick-up form the back of the scrum and Whitman scored his second from a textbook lineout move straight from the training ground.
Geekie, who controlled the game extremely well from ten, kicked five of the eight conversions in some seriously horrible conditions.
All in all, it was a wonderful performance which proud captain Matt Cook described as a blueprint for how Stratford play, even in rubbish weather – with pace, work rate and skill being the key.
It was an amazing weekend all-round for the senior men’s section of Stratford RFC. On a cold Friday night, Alex Ballentine’s veterans team won the inaugural Midlands quadrilateral festival, beating Shottery 7-5, Old Leamingtonians veterans 20-0 and drawing 12-12 with Coventry Ambulance Service.
Then, while the first team were putting Silhillians to the sword, the second team were doing likewise to hosts Old Coventrians in the cup. Four tries from captain for the day Callum Cook and two from Warwick Cox saw Stratford run in ten tries to seal a spot in the quarter-finals in December with a 62-5 win.
Stratford’s third-placed first team – with four wins from five matches – visit Leamington on Saturday.