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Stratford RUFC 34 Lichfield RUFC 41

Lichfield RUFC travelled to Stratford RUFC for their opening Midlands One league fixture against seasoned, experienced opponents expecting a tough encounter – and they weren’t disappointed.

Despite a bright, confident opening they were 10-0 down in 15 minutes, Stratford punishing every mistake and showing the difference in intensity and finishing from their previous league.

Their misery was compounded in the 23d minute, a freak bounce gifting Stratford’s winger his second try and giving the hosts a comfortable 15-0 lead.

Lichfield didn’t panic and continued playing enterprising rugby and after a prolonged period of pressure Dave Butler snatched a try to put the visitors on the score board in the 30th minute at 15-5.

They were determined to make life difficult for themselves and after the Myrtle Greens stopped playing in response to the home touch judge’s flag, the referee called play on and Stratford’s winger completed his hat trick, a touchline conversion rounding off the score and extending the lead to 22-5 with 32 minutes played.

Lichfield remained unbowed and Dan Rowlands marked his league debut with a sparkling individual try, converted by Massey, to narrow the deficit to 22-12.

Stratford responded with a fourth try by their wing, converted by the fly half to restore the lead to 17 points at 29-12.

But the visitors came roaring back and after a series of scrums five metres out the referee rewarded Lichfield’s pack with a penalty try after one too many infringements and the Myrtle Greens went into half time 29-19 in arrears.

The visiting side were confident that they could get something out of the game if they could reduce their error count.

The tight five of Bassett, Gabbitass, Taylor, Finnemore and Squire were giving their opponents a torrid time and sapping their energy. The back row of Thompson, Burton and Paulson were beginning to dominate in the loose exchanges and this was opening up space for Lichfield’s backs.

However it was the hosts who struck first in the 45th minute, their left wing collecting his fifth try to make it 34-19 to the home side.

The next 35 minutes saw Lichfield at their best. Butler and Massey dominated territory with some astute tactical play and the pressure began to mount.

In the 50th minute Luke Massey ghosted in for a fine try to reduce the deficit to 34-19.

Brear, Brown and Rose were revelling in the extra space and Rowlands and Adams were carving up the midfield.

Lichfield rang the changes, Tim Selway making his debut and replacing the hard working Taylor and Sporcic replacing Brown.

In the 63d minute a great period of play saw Sporcic outpace the home defence to cross the line, narrow the deficit to 34-29 and set Stratford a few problems as they saw their lead slip away.

Massey kept the ball in the right areas of the field, Lichfield had greatly reduced their error count and Stratford, whilst still playing with enormous physicality and passion, were beginning to creak.

In the 70th minute the visitors edged in front for the first time in the game, Adams powering over for Massey to convert and Lichfield were in front at 36-34.

They continued to play in a positive fashion and Rich Burton rounded off the scoring in the 76th minute, getting on the end of a great forward drive to make it 34-41.

Stratford kept battling to the death but Lichfield hung on for a fine victory against a committed and talented Stratford side.

Lichfield’s debutants, Selway, Rowland’s and Finnemore had impressive debuts and Tom Paulson marked his return to the side with a typically all action display.

Lichfield now entertain Sutton Coldfield who have again recruited well in an effort to gain promotion. This game will be the Myrtle Greens’ first home league game of the season, kick-off 3pm.

Lichfield: Taylor, Gabbitass, Bassett (c), Finnemore, Squire, Burton, Paulson, Thompson; Butler, L
Massey, Brown, Adams, Rowland’s, Brear, Rose. Subs: Selway, Upton and Sporcic.

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.