Stocksbridge Rugby tear up the form book
Consigned to their fate of relegation, Stocksbridge Rugby staged a fantastic 2nd half recovery to record their 2nd victory in 3 games, stunning mid-table visitors Aireborough with a 4 try blitz, then holding on manfully for a 35pts to 27pts bonus point wi
Hooker Ricky James passed a last minute fitness test, and Jack Spencer replaced Joe Jones on the wing, a strong bench of Bowman, Beal, Rowett, Aspin and Richardson would prove to be very influential during the course of the game. First blood to the visitors who scored a simple try through some pretty ineffectual tackling from the Stocksbridge pack, who struggled to cope with the big Aireborough 8 early in the game.
When the home side did have possession of the ball the pick and drive tactics worked to good effect with skipper Newton, prop Woodcock and Sam Whitaker showing up well. Bowskill nailed a penalty to get Stocksbridge Rugby on the board, but almost immediately a kick off return error gave the visitors another try scoring opportunity, which they gratefully accepted, although their kicker was having an off day. Coach Keenan emptied the bench with 3 substitutions looking for an impact, and a great mid field break from Tom Spencer created an opportunity for supporting half back Frith however, he was tackled before receiving the ball and Stocksbridge had to be content with another 3pts from Bowskill's reliable right boot to keep the score board ticking over.
The luckless Whitaker succombed to a calf strain as the visitors recorded their 4th and bonus point try of the first half, fortunately goal kicking failures kept the door open for the home side. A typically bull charging rampage from Brown ended in disaster as he suffered a break and dislocation of his ankle during a tackle which brought about a premature end to the first half with the score Stocksbridge Rugby 6pts - Aireborough 20pts.
Keenan gave the team the hair dryer treatment at half time, leaving them in no doubt about his view on their first half performance, and demanded a reaction. He only had to wait for 2 minutes as centre Westby jinked and weaved a path through the Aireborough ranks to score in the corner, and Bowskill added the extras. Game on ! The home pack tore into the sizable visiting eight, gaining parity in the scrums and the loose, a break by Booth lead to a penalty as Aireborough chose fair means or foul to halt the blue juggernaut, and Bowskill responded positively to cut the lead to just 4pts. A rejuvenated Adam Frith was on hand to finish a sweeping Stocksbridge move and cap a fine personal performance with a try of his own, again and importantly goaled by Bowskill. Just 4 minutes later a searing break by the dashing Ryan Smith gave Stocksbridge good field position from which the veteran playmaker Ricky Christopherson used his deft handling skills to release the bustling O'Leary in the centre, who crashed over for a try to give Stocksbridge Rugby the lead, they were never going to give up.
Enter replacement Jamie Christian, who with his first touch of the ball, bundled his way over for a further Stocksbridge try, after another training ground move including Bowskill, Frith and Westby to send the sizable home crowd into raptures, thinking about what could have been if this form had been shown on a more consistent basis throughout the whole season. Bowskill was again successful with his conversion taking his personal tally to 15pts in a strong performance from full back.
Aireborough are an experienced unit, and it wasn't all one way traffic. Perhaps needing time to breathe the Pigs relaxed and the visitors again recorded a close range score to keep themselves in the hunt. Stocksbridge Rugby weren't to be denied and held out during a frantic last few minutes for a well earned, hard fought but fully deserved victory by 35pts to 27pts. Back row trojan Ricky Rowett took the Bradfield Brewery man of the match award and several others came into contention including Bowskill, O'Leary and Frith, whilst the diesel Reece Aspin produced another gritty, consistent display.
Afterwards skipper Pete Newton thanked all the team, squad, staff and supporters for all their hard work during a largely frustrating season on the paddock. 'it's been a tough year' he said 'but we are improving and are on the right track, we'll be back'. With Coach Keenan still breathing fire and fury, it was left to interim DoR Andy Tyers to sum the match up 'a poor and weak start gave them the early momentum, but Keeno's unprintable half time talk certainly did the job. What a response' adding 'the second stanza shows what Stocksbridge Rugby is capable of, and it's pleasing for the lads to see their hard work rewarded'.
Stocksbridge will now take stock of their season during the review process and plan their assault on the Division four title next time out. Keep an eye out for details of the popular end of season club awards dinner, with a high profile guest speaker set to be announced shortly.