Gloucester Reserve League North 3

Stow II 24

Minchinhampton Rams 20

ON A remarkably well-drained pitch at Stow, given the recent deluge, where the hosts were celebrating the opening of their refurbished clubhouse, Minch were narrowly defeated in a compelling game.

A second-half head injury to promising young centre Lewis McKissick disrupted a hitherto fluent backline, though the New Year mix and match of players gelled encouragingly well.

In the end a strong Stow side showed a bit more nous and converted two of their tries, and that was the difference between the two teams.

A strong candidate for man-of-the-match was young full back Jack Richards, who in his first senior outing had a terrific game, scoring two tries and making countless jinking breaks as well as several vital cover tackles.

Minch were cheered by the return of Wright and Whittemore, returning from injury for their first games of the season, and had the considerable experience of Eagles, on sparkling form, and the evergreen French to draw upon. But it was the younger players who really caught the eye.

Despite a promising start, the Rams found themselves two tries behind after about 25 minutes, as Stow punched holes in the fringes and their determined fly half went over. Regrouping, Minch started to build a better platform in the line-outs and scrums, and with ball, the backs looked very incisive, just lacking that final pass. So it wasn’t long before Owen powered over on the end of a fluent move to make it 12-5. Then Stow wrested the initiative once more with a third score, thus enjoying a slightly flattering 19-5 lead at half-time.

Minch upped their game in the second half, despite McKissick’s injury, which required stitches. The forwards exerted more control, committed fewer to the breakdown and started to make holes in the Stow defence, with Burfoot, Varley, Bell and young Adam Stride all prominent.

The pressure paid off when Richards smartly finished an attack in the corner, a feat he repeated not long afterwards in the opposite corner, following fine interplay between Owen and Hester.

Unfortunately, Minch could not convert the extras. Stow managed a final score, then more cut and thrust from the Minch backs delivered a lovely pass for Hester to plough over. Minch could not quite exploit further opportunities and overlaps, so the deserved win eluded them, but they played with tremendous enterprise and grit in a highly encouraging display.