Stroud huffed and puffed to a 24-13 victory over Norton, writes Mark Samak.
Stroud were immediately on the back foot with Norton exerting pressure at the breakdown and forcing an early penalty despite Stroud securing possession. Eventually, the pressure told as Stroud encroached offside and awarded the Norton kicker the easiest of opportunities to open the scoring. 0-3.
The early set back sparked Stroud into an immediate response with solid work in the tackle from Voyce and Phillips forcing an error. The Stroud scrum was solid throughout with Warner, Voyce and Rodway providing a real platform and the pack were able to disrupt Norton ball on a number of occasions. Cremmins, broke the first line of defence – Ashenford and Marsh provided swift distribution to Leworthy, who found Stokes in the wider channels. The second row showed a good turn of pace and was driven on in contact by second-row partner, Samak, to drive within a metre. Accuracy at the breakdown, allowed Voyce to pick and drive over the line wide on the right.
Norton transgressed at the breakdown around halfway and allowed Marsh to find touch 30m out. Voyce found Stokes and the pack set up the drive. A huge surge allowed Stroud to splinter the Norton defence before Samak and Baker controlled the ball at the back. Baker finally crashed over the line to complete a massive forward effort. Ashenford converted. 12-3.
The final 15 minutes of the first half saw Norton camped in the Stroud 22 after a number of penalties conceded by the home side. Norton looked certain to cross after imaginative work at the front of the lineout pushed play within metres. Excellent work from Warner and Voyce, on the blindside, kept the line intact. Norton however would not lie down and a number of close-range pick and goes sucked the Stroud defence in before efficient handling freed their winger to cross in the corner.
In the second half, the forwards were able to make greater ground and began to break the advantage line more regularly. Phillips and Cremmins led the carry count and were well backed up by Rodway. Great hands from Phillips in contact found Baker running a great support line and the flanker crashed through the defensive line to surge towards the 22 – Ashenford spread play to Marsh and a well-timed pass from the fly-half found Cremmins hitting a great line to storm through the defensive line before beating the full-back to crash over by the posts. Ashenford Converted.
Cremmins, Phillips and Captain Leworthy continued to carry strongly. Marsh and Toon combined with the centre taking an inside line and driving into the 22. Warner continued the momentum with a trademark bullocking run before Ashenford and Marsh found Leworthy, whose well-timed pass released Voyce on the left-wing and the hooker cruised in for his second try.
Norton to their credit kept up their work rate and claimed the final score of the afternoon with their second row scavenging a line out ball and surging 70m up the touchline to cross in the corner. 24-13.