Rosslyn Park edge win at Stourbridge
Injury-hit Rosslyn Park returned from Stourbridge with five league points in the bag after a tight 25-22 win.
It was far from a commanding performance, but with a whole back row out injured, along with top try-scorer Miles Mantella, and hooker Ben Gotting pressed into service as an emergency flanker, they will be pleased enough to have won.
The start was little short of disastrous as the visiting defence adopted the ‘Red Sea formation’, parting as Stourbridge centre Ben Barkley scampered through to put his side 5-0 in front.
When Park put it together they looked a different class, but handling errors seemed to beset them whenever they got close to scoring.
A good attack in the 13th minute saw some beautiful long, wide passes send Will Robinson on a great run from which Dom Shabbo nearly got over.
A five-metre scrum saw Park awarded a free kick which Gotting took as a quick tap and when he could not get over the line Laurence Ovens drove on, but eventually the ball was spilt.
A quick throw at a lineout saw Park press forward again, but a succession of attacks brought no reward until Robinson hoofed a penalty to touch 10 metres from the try line and hooker Dan Richmond drove over to score, Robinson missing a very difficult conversion for 5-5.
No sooner had Park got themselves on level terms than a lapse in concentration saw them slip behind again.
Within a minute a clearance kick went out on the full, Stourbridge took a quick throw and Barkley skipped in for his second easy try, converted by Nathan Bressington for 12-7 to the home side.
Park returned to the attack, but again could not consistently retain the ball. Stourbridge, desperate for a win to ease their relegation fears, launched a telling attack of their own.
When they failed to exploit a long penalty advantage, play was brought back for the kick. The penalty was kicked to the corner, but Park offended again.
This time Bressington accepted the three points on offer and Park's Richmond earned his third 10 minute rest in four matches.
Even a man short, Park were able to take the game to Stourbridge. A good run through the middle by John Rudd yielded a penalty, but a strong cross-wind took Robinson’s attempt off course.
Park maintained the momentum with a superb run by Nev Edwards that saw Ovens drive on and eventually the ball went wide on the left where Joe Trayfoot got over. An “impossible” conversion proved to be just that, but with three minutes to the interval Park were right back in it at 15-10.
Indeed, they nearly drew level, again getting into a great attacking position but were let down by a knock on.
Park started the second half with a promising attack before taking careful aim and shooting themselves in the foot. This time they dropped the ball in the opposition half and Stourbridge flanker Joe Garner simply picked it up and galloped away to score, making it 22-10 on 44 minutes.
Park still looked good in their build-up work. A powerful run up the left by Stan McKeen put pressure on the defence and Ben Gotting got over in the corner for 22-15. Stand-in skipper Ross Laidlaw decided to risk a slightly injured foot by attempting the touchline conversion himself, but was no luckier in the wind than was his predecessor.
The visitors returned to the attack, determined to rescue the match. Steve Parsons looked to have scored but his effort was disallowed. Eventually Park bundled over and Gotting emerged with the ball, bringing the four-try bonus point, and then a super conversion by Laidlaw made it 22-22.
Stourbridge tried everything to secure the win they desperately needed, but a super clearance kick by Robinson saw Park return to the attack with a good run by Rudd.
A score looked inevitable as the visitors spun the ball wide to a two-man overlap on the left but the final pass was inches too far in front of Gotting’s outstretched fingers with the line at his mercy.
It would have been a remarkable hat-trick on his ‘debut’ as flanker, but the pressure eventually told in the form of a penalty, from which Laidlaw kicked his side into the lead with only four minutes remaining.
Needing only to retain possession until full time, Park very nearly gave it away. First they lost possession with only seconds left, then they conceded a penalty in front of their own posts for the last play of the match.
With the two points for a draw on offer insufficient to ease their relegation worries, Stourbridge bravely went for glory, running the ball to try to get the try that would bring them a win and a bonus point. It never really looked on, and Park held out.
Park: Edwards; Shabbo (Edgerley), Parsons, Robinson, Rudd; Laidlaw; Baxter (Barr); Ovens (Marfo), Richmond, Ward; Lloyd-Jones; McKeen; Rowland, Gotting, Trayfoot. Subs not used: Johnson, Cross.
Park scorers: Gotting (2T), Richmond (T), Trayfoot (T) Laidlaw (P, C)