1st XV
Sat 06 Apr 2024  ·  Counties 1 Midlands West (North)
Stafford RUFC
1st XV


Steven McLuckie7 Apr - 07:01
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Stafford finish the league with a flourish holding onto a one-point lead in an enthralling end of season encounter.

Stafford closed off the league by hosing a travelling Shrewsbury XV. The teams last met back in early September in the opening game of this year’s competition. Since then, the team’s season had taken very different paths with the Salopians holding a respectable 12 wins and 9 losses for a solid fifth place position. In contrast Stafford had 8 wins and 13 losses but with the second half of the season proving to be much more profitable. The previous meeting had seen the visitors claiming an emphatic victory, but this was an evolving Stafford 1st XV only fielding eight players from the squad which had kicked off this year’s campaign.

The sunny spring afternoon was only tainted by a wicked wind whipping across all parts of the field. Shrewsbury showed off their skills early on when some simple passing rugby took the first try of the game. From the restart Stafford roared back into the encounter and Shrewsbury were immediately defending their own line against an effective pick and go attack from the hosts. The visitors put in a diligent shift and eventually the referee signalled the ball held up. An injury to captain Alex Rock could have disrupted play, but Stafford juggled positions and continued to stoke the fire. Shrewsbury couldn’t get their hands on the ball and had to deflect wave after wave of crippling rugby. With the play flowing across the pitch, the home side showed off their handling skills and Connor McCulloch raced down the wing for a try. In a rare period of possession, the visitors again demonstrated their pace and finesses with some punishing play which ended in a well-deserved try. However, Shrewsbury were soon back in a fighting defence trying to contain the storm which was the Stafford attacking play. The Salopians survived a torrid five minutes before silky hands released Connor McCulloch to take his second try of the afternoon. An injury to Gaz O’Connor further depleted the Stafford bench, leaving a single replacement for the remainder of the afternoon. The motor didn’t falter though, finding their way back up the pitch, the Blackberry Lane XV honed back in on the opposition line. The visiting defence looked equal to the task and smashed back everything being thrown against it. A decisive bruising run from Tom Kirby eventually tore open the previously impermeable Shrewsbury. Spencer Latham secured the ball and crashed across for a try converted by Connor McCulloch. Stafford went into half time with a narrow 17-14 lead but with the game hanging finely in the balance.

Opening the second half it was the home side who had to endure a tempestuous Shropshire start. The visitors scrapped their way towards a raucous club house but the momentum finally faltered. Stafford cleared their lines and a brutal counter tore through the battling opposition. Henry Perks, Jerry Qasenivalu and Connor McCulloch combined to carve their way to within touching distance of the line. A supporting Dan Watts picked up and carried defenders across the line for the first try of the half. Shrewsbury battered their way back into the game but the Stafford defence was stubbornly obstinate, managing to snuff out the fiery assaults. Some excellent jackalling prised an elusive ball clear and freed up Tom Kirby who raced off through the opposition for a lung busting try, which proved to be his last contribution as he limped off injured. In a see saw encounter, Shrewsbury took the next score bringing it back to an eight-point difference. Both teams were showing the signs of a long season and Stafford couldn’t get any respite from a now empty bench. The Shropshire XV continued to snipe at the Stafford resistance and the smallest of opportunities produced a try, closing the difference down to a single point. Stafford continued to work hard for each other and as the game entered the final five minutes, they contested every inch of Blackberry Lane. An exhausted Shrewsbury gave as good as they got, but were begrudgingly forced slowly backwards. With the line within sight the County Town team hurled themselves into one last herculean effort. All members of the team flew in from every angle as they looked for a final score to kill off the game. Several players came close but it was left to Joben Corcoran to stretch across for his debut try for the 1st XV. With no time left on the clock the visitors had possession and scrambled to make up the six-point deficit. Some slick handling undid an exhausted opposition and the field opened up for Shrewsbury to take the final try of the game. The Salopians just required the conversion for the victory, but the swirling wind snatched the ball away from the upright and handed a well fought win to the mighty Stafford XV.

Next 1st XV Match: Saturday 13th April 2024, Away vs Droitwich. Papa Johns Cup.

Match details

Match date

Sat 06 Apr 2024




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