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Bishop's Stortford beat Hertford in final pre-season friendly ahead of National League 1 opener at Tonbridge Juddians

Bishop's Stortford beat Hertford 40-19 at Silver Leys in their last pre-season friendly on Thursday night (August 26).

The match under the lights provided another good workout for a large number of Stortford's first-team squad against opponents who tackled hard throughout and showed considerable ambition in possession.

Joint head coaches Tom Coleman and Marcus Cattell are now preparing to take charge of their first competitive game as Stortford begin the new National League 1 campaign at promoted Tonbridge Juddians this Saturday (September 4).

Hertford actually dominated the early exchanges, building on a tremendous take by their lively right wing of their starting drop-out to launch a series of attacks and barely give Stortford a touch for the first six minutes.

After a breakdown penalty was kicked to touch well inside the home 22, the visitors once again used the resultant possession cleverly to create an opening for a forward to cross for a converted try out wide.

With some 20 minutes gone, Stortford finally got some clean ball from a scrum on their own 22 which was quickly worked upfield, where three penalties in a row were forced. Although Hertford defended successive lineout drives well, when the ball was moved wide the home side quickly created an overlap for Chris Smith to run round the last defender and touch down under the posts to level the scores.

Chris Smith was the scorer of Stortford's first try. Pic: Vikki Lince
Chris Smith was the scorer of Stortford's first try. Pic: Vikki Lince

Stortford took the lead six minutes later with a try from a well-driven maul from a five-metre lineout after another defensive penalty was conceded by the visitors. Tom Walker converted well from out wide.

Hertford battled back with some good handling through their backs, taking full advantage to score a try out wide when Stortford's previously sound defence seemed to relax, allowing space to be created too easily by successive long passes right then left. The conversion attempt, just before the break, went narrowly wide to leave Stortford with a 14-12 lead.

It was Stortford's turn to start the second half quickly, forcing an immediate turnover from the restart, and some forceful play by both forwards and backs saw James Thacker force his way over for an unconverted try.

With half-backs Sam Bryan and Alfie Orchard looking lively, the home side enjoyed an extended period of control, but it was a great breakout from their own 22 by Alex and Sam Gilham from a long Hertford kick that brought the next try with seven minutes of the half gone. The latter was prevented from scoring only by a high tackle, but a driving maul from the resultant kick to touch saw Zach Hill score a try which was well converted by Orchard to make it 26-12.

The fly-half repeated the feat three minutes later, looping round to take a smart, short pass from Austin Pope, and adding the extras to his own try.

Once again Stortford let their defensive standards slip briefly, allowing the battling Hertford side to break down the right wing and then switch the ball quickly to the left for a try which was very well converted from close to touch.

It was the hosts that ended on the front foot with Alex Gilham touching down under the posts after gathering a wickedly bouncing kick from Orchard, who again converted just before the final whistle to take the score to 40-19.

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