National League One: Bishop's Stortford 25 Rosslyn Park 27
Bishop’s Stortford gifted high-flying Rosslyn Park an early Christmas present by surrendering a 25-3 lead at Silver Leys on Saturday.
The 27-25 defeat was their fourth in a row in December and their ninth in 10 games – yet six of them have been by just four points or fewer. It was also their sixth successive home loss.
Colossal home defence early on, with man-of-the-match Jack Scantlebury to the fore, repelled wave after wave of Rosslyn Park attacks to frustrate the visitors, and twice Stortford sneaked into a three-point lead with penalties from Tom Banks after 9 and 27 minutes, with a goal to Park’s Greg Lound in between.
Momentum swung clearly Stortford’s way though with tries after 36 and 44 minutes to Dec Caulfield and Joss Linney, both well converted by Banks, to give the hosts a 20-3 half-time lead. The first came from a driving maul, with backs joining the pack, and the second from good handling by the backs, giving the winger just enough room to squeeze down the outside and run round behind the posts.
When Rob Duff touched down on the opposite wing for Stortford with barely a minute of the second half gone to make it 25-3, the game seemed to be in the bag, but Andy Long's men lacked the self-belief to deprive the opposition of the ball by running through multiple phases and instead kicked the ball away early, proceeding then to concede a series of penalties at midfield breakdowns.
This allowed a powerful Park side, showing an impressive mix of determination and skill, to turn the game on its head, taking ruthless advantage and scoring tries after 50, 72 and 78 minutes, two through their strong forwards and one from the backs.
All were well converted and were enough, together with a penalty goal by replacement Leonard on 64 minutes, to secure the narrowest of wins, as time ran out.
Stortford: Hankin, Duff, Scantlebury, Keen, Linney, Cullen, Banks; Brownhill, Caulfield, McCrone, Kalou, Tomlinson, Apperley, Elsom, Kingham. Replacements: King, Castiglione, George, Etherington, Coleman.
Rosslyn Park: Grove, Weightman, Hayhow, Munro, Amesbury, Lound, Weir; Nwakor-Mwanabbi, Vaughan-Edwards, Maguire, Mills, Gillanders, Laventure, Ellis A., Ellis H. Replacements: Spencer, Wade, Frampton, Marton, Leonard.
Tries: Caulfield 32, Linney 39 & 41. Pens: Banks 9 & 27. Cons: Banks 33 & 39.
Tries: Spencer 50, Gillanders 72, Marfo 78. Pens: Lound 20, Leonard 64. Cons: Lound 51, Leonard 73 & 78.
Star man: Jack Scantlebury, Bishop’s Stortford. Referee: Daniel Collins. Attendance: 640.