May & Baker 20,
RUGBY: STANFORD took a very close win at home earlier in the season – but could not do the double on the return leg.
There were first team debuts for Jared Gounden, Mark O’Connell and Michael Kite.
From the off Stanford were pushing the Bakers side back.
After just six minutes Stanford had the first chance at points with a wide penalty. But Calum Reid was just off target.
With a quarter of an hour gone, Bakers controlled a set move and drove Stanford back over their line to open the scoring with a try. But Bakers couldn’t add the extra two points.
Stanford hit back and pushed their way back up the pitch. And from their lineout Stanford’s Liam Morley took the ball at the back and found Ash Smith who was able to cross the line. Reid was again close but was just unable to add the extra two points.
The first half ended with honours even at five points apiece. One change was made at half time with Aaron Smith coming off after tweaking his hamstring. His brother Ash took over at full back and Michael Kite took over at inside centre.
Two minutes into the second half Conal Maguire was replaced with Joe McCallum after hurting his back. But McCallum was only on the pitch for four minutes when he was shown a yellow for hands in the ruck.
Fourteen man Stanford applied pressure and Bakers knocked on. A seven man scrum held the power of the eight Bakers men and Sam Herbert sent Michael Kite on a strong powerful run forward. Finally, Ash Smith came up with ball taking Stanford into the lead. Reid kicked the extra two points.
With only one minute left on the sin-bin, clock Bakers finally managed to exploit the extra man and pushed their way over for their second try.
The match went back into a deadlock situation with both teams striking, but being cancelled out by strong defences. After 24 minutes of the second half, Stanford were penalised in front of their posts and Baker took the lead for the first time.
Baker’s winger was only a few metres from the line when Jamie McDermott caught the player, but was deemed to have made a high tackle. The official deemed that the Baker player would have scored if the high tackle had not been made, so from the award penalty he gave a penalty try – making the conversation easy.
Despite the set-back Stanford kept their composure and threw everything at their rivals.
They were awarded a penalty outside the 22m line. Smith stepped up to bring the points that would put Stanford within five points of victory – and his kick just crept over. The remaining four minutes saw Stanford try everything to get back under the Baker posts. But it was a bridge too far for Stanford who went down 20-15.
For borough rugby see the Thurrock Gazette on Friday