Old Bristolians.......................................... 33

THIS pulsating game ended in a wafer- thin victory for Stroud, writes Sean Moore.

The home team produced an epic performance to defeat this high-flying side from Bristol on a bitterly cold day at Fromehall Park.

Stroud had a perfect start- they went through 10 phases before Sam Hester was put clear to cross in the corner.

From the kick-off Stroud gained the ball and again started a series of superb passing moves and recycling which saw Pete Sykes tie up three opponents before he passed inside to Hester who put on cruise control running from 60 yards to score under the posts for a try which he converted.12-0. The pack were playing controlled aggressive rugby and were able to use the driving mauls to great effect.

The scrum dominance was such that Stroud won three balls against the head and the front row of Dan Smith, Ollie Smith and Stratton looked very comfortable in the tight. Bristolians recovered from the Stroud onslaught and gained a try following a quickly taken penalty.

Stroud further increased their score with a penalty 15-7. Hester gained yet another hat-trick of tries when he finished off a fine team to score . Ben Stephens won the ball in the lineout. It went through several phases before Hester put down near the posts Pete Sykes converted.

Sykes gained the next try when he finished of another flowing movement by the threes with the centres Foote and Leworthy showing very strong straight running giving the outside banks plenty of space to show their speed.29-7 In the pack Josh Stratton made several strong bullocking runs and he was well supported by Robert Reid who had a final-round game offering stiff resistance in defence and making valuable yards with his incursions.

On the wing Jack Young became more and more involved and he is beginning to look a real threat and his tackling is also very solid.

The half-back pairing of Joe Doyle and Jake Marsh provided a smooth link between the pack and the backs and they always look threatening on the break.

In the second half Bristolians showed up much better and were able to put Stroud under a lot of pressure with Stroud being denied the ball for long periods of time. Bristolians worked at reducing the deficit and eventually they took the lead 29-33.

The game was at a critical stage and this is where a fired up Tom Warner came on for the last 15 minutes. He made a big difference being at the centre of Stroud’s forward assault on the Bristolians line and it was he who scored the vital try after series of mauls drove him over near the corner.