Stroud Rugby 26 Tewkesbury RFC 26
Stroud were forced to share the spoils at home to Tewkesbury, writes Mark Samak.
Earlier, Tewkesbury dominated early possession and territory with their sizable forward pack exerting dominance in the scrum and in breaking the advantage line. Even when errors were forced, the Stroud scrummage was under pressure and remained camped in their own 22. Eventually, the pressure told and Tewkesbury were awarded a penalty try as the scrummage surged towards the Stroud line.
Marsh spread the play to Leworthy, who released Bonham for a powerful burst up the left-wing.
Stroud were finally able to string some phases together with Debieux, Voyce and Cremmins carrying strongly. This forward momentum allowed Marsh to hit Leworthy on a hard line and the skipper showed his strength to surge over. Ashenford converted.
From a penalty, Tewkesbury kicked to the corner and set up a driving maul. Fine defensive work stopped the initial surge and the line remained intact with Voyce and Ashenford to the fore in the defensive effort. The pressure finally told as the heavier Tewkesbury pack forced their way over out wide from close range. Try converted.
Voyce took a scrum against the head with a quick strike and quick ball from Marsh, allowed Bushell to show his vision and experience with a well-weighted kick into the corner. Bonham showed a fantastic turn of pace on the wing to outpace his opposite number and ground the ball in the corner.
Tewkesbury were in no mood to lie down and still looked dangerous with their two main carriers still causing Stroud problems. One strong carry from their Number 8 allowed quick ball that their three-quarters used well to free their left wing to scoot in at the corner.
Forward carries from Philips, Higgins and Debieux took play into the Tewkesbury half before Marsh found Cremmins running a great line and the Number 8 showed power and pace to break through 3 tackles before being felled under the shadow of the posts. Quick ball allowed a delayed pass from Bushell, which and freed Leworthy to cross in the corner. A superb conversion from Ashenford levelled the scores.
Collins was entering the backline with significant effect and regularly made significant ground with his elusive running style. Flanagan made a 30m burst up the wing, which earned penalty. Cremmins and Baker carried before Ashenford and Marsh switched play to free Leworthy to power over from 10m dragging a number of tacklers over with him. Ashenford Converted.
Stroud looked to use their wider running style to push on further. Another sinuous run from Collins returned a Tewkesbury kick up to half way before Marsh accelerated through a gap to really turn the defence. He found the ever-willing Ashenford supporting and released the scrum-half to appear to cross in the corner. However, the try was strangely disallowed.
A number of penalties eventually resulted in a yellow card and pushed Stroud back into their own 22. To their credit, Tewkesbury went through multiple phases and despite brave defence from Davies and Phillips pressed towards the Stroud line. Their patience was rewarded as Stroud defenders were pulled in before Tewkesbury’s backs took advantage of the numerical advantage to cross with the conversion levelling the scores.