Stourbridge 30, Luctonainas 25

Following last week’s long shift at Otley, Stour entertained local rivals Luctonians in a derby game that promised to be entertaining, to say the least.

With the all weather surface not being ready, the game took place on the second team (road side) pitch and the conditions were good if a little soft underfoot following a series of torrential downpours.

However, this made the green green grass of home ideal for the Lucs No 10, Tom Jones.

Expectations were high with the likes of Dan Rundle, Joe Heatley and George Morgan in the starting line up. However, Neil Mitchell also had the luxury of being able to rotate players with Alex Hearle replacing Josh Trinham and Afe Haisila Lokotui on the bench meant two backs were available rather than last week when Stour only had one.

This was Luctonians second road trip having narrowly beaten Sheffield last week 31-32 following the home side missing a last minute penalty.

Both sides were brimming with confidence but it was Stour who put the first points on the board through a Chris Scott penalty with just three minutes gone.

There was no doubt that Stour had the dominant set piece with a series of misdemeanours giving rise to the first Yellow Card of the day when Joe White was given a 10 minute rest on 12 minutes.

Following the kick touch, the ball was sent out left to speedster Dan Rundle who dotted down but the TJ adjudged the player to have put a foot in touch.

Lucs secured the next penalty but the resulting lineout was met by stern defence from the Stour forwards who managed to steal possession. Unfortunately, this was to no avail and two more penalties were awarded to the visitors by referee George Selwood. The latter was converted by Louis Silver, courtesy of an upright and it was even stevens on 20 minutes.

It didn’t take long for another trademark try after Stourbridge fielded the kick off and a Lucs player was penalised. The lineout was gathered by an ascendant Stour pack and Nigel Mukarati forced his way over for his third try of the season.

The next few phases of play saw both sides attack and defend some skilful moves but the visitors’ discipline let them down again when a series of infringements culminated in loose head prop Dan Powell seeing Yellow on 36 minutes.

Stour opted for a scrum and after another powerful shove referee Selwood had no option but to award a penalty try making the score 15-3.

This was the catalyst for a Luctonian onslaught and wingman Amphlett finally dotted down out left following some exciting rucks and mauls. Silver converted on the stroke of half time and it was game on with 40 minutes of play left on the clock and a 15-10 scoreboard.

In all fairness, the penalty count was fairly even at this stage but, with a Stourbridge front eight dominant and Luctonians confident after last week’s performance, it was a brave spectator who would predict the final outcome with any confidence.

However, in an almost mirrored phase of play, Stour repeated the first half scoring when Scott hit another penalty and Silver returned the compliment just one minute later.

The next five minutes saw Stourbridge repelled by some strong defensive play by the visitors whose driving tackles gave no quarter and pushed them backwards.

However, it was a Ben Tibbetts box kick that lead to more pressure and Stour stole the opposition’s lineout ball. Possession was retained as the ball went wide out for Joe Heatley to latch on to at the 53 minutes mark scoring out left with Scott adding the extras.

Not for the first time, the run of play changed as a determined Luctonians side came out of the blocks and started to convince spectators and officials alike that they had the dominance.

Skipper Sam Pailor seemed to lose his cloak of invisibility when he saw yellow followed a minute later by Nick Murphy leaving Stourbridge to concede a penalty try and having to face the next 10 minutes with just 13 men on the pitch!

In an almost Lemming like state, the home side started looking to offer more and more scoring opportunities to their visitors. Wild passes and even wilder kicking gave attacking opportunities to Luctonians.

However, a combination of good fortune and resolute defence seemed to repel the tide of attack by the men in white and black.

Nevertheless, a somewhat poor attempt at a clearance kick by Stour full back landed in the grateful arms of one Ben Barkley.

Surprised at the lack of tacklers (most of Stour were offside after that kick) and thinking this was Christmas and birthday rolled into one, Barkers hesitated a little but then ran pretty much unopposed to score a valuable five points.

Silver’s conversion attempt went tantalisingly close but unrewarded and we now had an interesting score line of 25 – 25 with 14 minutes to play.

More importantly, the home side had now been restored to 15 men and Joe Heatley had a point to prove. Two strong runs and a vital pass off his right hand set up a Dan Rundle try on 70 minutes, out left. Only the left upright stood between Scott’s conversion and nil points but the metalwork won.

For the home crowd, the next 10 minutes seemed like 10 hours as Luctonians sent wave after wave of attacking players towards the opposition’s try line!

In spite of winning a couple of penalties, Stour insisted on giving away possession but some superb covering tackles meant that the scoreboard remained undisturbed!

In a last ditch attempt, Lucs secured the ball through a 78th minute penalty.

It was sent out right and was rewarded by a Stour knock on. Scrum to Lucs, further possession but yet again, frantic defence was rewarded by a penalty to Stour. A tap and a kick by Petty saw the ball go dead and sighs of relief could be heard as far as Amblecote.

Tom Jones puns aside, Luctonians put up a great fight with a relatively young side and they have always been a threat whether at home or away.

Stourbridge, who now find themselves in second spot, roll on the next two weeks when we visit two Yorkshire sides Sheffield and Wharfedale before the next home fixture against Chester on September 30.