Stourbridge Saxons 7 v 3 Hull Ionians
By Malcolm Knowles
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Ionians came away from Stourton Park still maintaining a tenuous grip on the top of N2N, but with their credibility seriously dented following defeat at the hands of a side who showed little evidence of the defensive frailties that have blighted their season thus far. In truth Ionians did little to exploit the issue, lacking the capability to cross the gain line on the day, when faced with a well organised and determined rear-guard.
The only try of the game came early in the first half. Stourbridge had first use of a strong wind and kicked to give them field position in the Ionians 22. They were awarded a scrum 15m from the Ionians line, the squeeze was applied and as Stourbridge inched forward scrum-half Joe Heatley broke away to exploit a huge gap down the blind side, he drew the limited cover to put supporting No.8, Sam Montieri, over. Chris Scott added the well-judged extras to put Stourbridge 7 – 0 up.
Had spectators being aware this was the only score they would have been well advised to make their way to the exit, rather than suffer the appalling weather and dismal spectacle that followed.
Ionians suffered a double blow with the withdrawal of Mark Wigham and Callum Smith after 20 minutes, but they seemed unimpeded by the re-shuffle in the back line, moving the ball wide to the wings. Unfortunately, there was too much lateral movement and Stourbridge comfortably contained the threat posed by the Ionians back three.
Using the considerable bulk of Jack Lea the home side were able to make initial inroads into the Ionians defensive line, but they also failed to find a way past the Ionians cover when they swung the ball wide, trying utilise the pace of Harrison, Wilson and Rundle. This stale-mate, combined with the thoroughly miserable weather, reduced the contest to an unedifying mid-field grapple. Thankfully the pristine pitch removed the possibility of a mud bath, that really would have been the final straw.
The first half was concluded with a penalty goal by Lewis Minikin, who drilled his kick skilfully between the uprights, on one of the visitor’s rare excursions into the home half. 7-3 down at half time, with the elements in their favour for the second period, must have given Ionians a lift as they sought the sanctuary of the dressing room.
Predictably the second half was played predominantly in the home half of the pitch. Hard as they tried Ionians failed to make any breaks of significance. Poor ball retention on a number of occasions cost them dear and Stourbridge looked increasingly dangerous on the break with Riley posing a particular threat.
Further knocks to Ed Falkingham and Adam Thomas did little to help the cause, but Ionians lacked a cutting edge, and although they manfully laboured away it progressively looked like being Stourbridge’s day. Glee for the home support came soon enough, if not for the travelling devotees. It was a day Ionians will want to forget, hopefully not before some honest reflection and assessment.