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Bishop's Stortford push National League 1 leaders Cinderford all the way in 55-39 defeat

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Bishop's Stortford gave National League 1 leaders Cinderford a mighty scare in Gloucestershire before succumbing 55-39 on Saturday.

The visitors led 27-12 in the first half and twice got their noses back in front in the second period after going behind, but the table-toppers eventually ran out winners in the 94-point thriller.

Stortford, who have now lost five in a row, started brightly and were rewarded with three points from Tom Walker's penalty after an off-the-ball offence.

The hosts went ahead when they returned a poor clearance kick and a good offload saw Jamie Forrester in for an unconverted try.

The visitors bounced back and, with Dec Caulfield making repeated dents, close-quarters pressure allowed Seb Brownhill to force his way over for a try, converted by Walker.

A try to Rory Banks, who supported a great break from a lineout by Tom Lewis, was well converted by Walker to give Stortford a 12-point lead.

The gap was narrowed when Will Hendy's dancing feet helped him bag a converted try as he stepped inside, but Stortford flew back onto the attack and were rewarded with another Walker penalty before a try from Cole Swannack, supporting a great break from the base of a ruck by Sam Bryan, was converted by Walker.

Cinderford showed their mettle, however, scoring two tries in quick succession in the last five minutes of the half. The first went to their right wing after a crucial offload in midfield and the second, which was converted, was a trademark driving maul which proved unstoppable from a lineout close to the 22.

Stortford struggled to get out of their 22 in the first five minutes of the second period and were finally punished by another try from a long driving maul which was well converted.

Despite their scrum now coming under increased pressure, the visitors enjoyed an extended period of possession in the opposition half before a long pass from Dan Cole found Walker unmarked out wide for an unconverted try.

Yet another converted try from a driving maul restored Cinderford's lead, but it lasted just six minutes as a piece of individual opportunism saw James Apperley finish off another extended period of pressure on the line by pirouetting out of a tackle and beating the last two defenders to cross the line for another converted try.

That took the visitors back into a single-point lead, but that was as good as it was going to get as the powerful Cinderford side increasingly took control.

Almost inevitably their fightback started with another try from a driving maul, followed almost immediately by a hat-trick try to second row Joe Dancer, as Stortford's now weary defence crumbled in the face of a surging counter-attack.

With time running out, the hosts sealed their victory with a penalty from in front of the posts, giving them a somewhat flattering 16-point margin at the end of a pulsating, end-to-end game.

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