Cheltenham 22 Stroud 28

KURTIS HERBERT held his nerve to strike a last-gasp victory for Stroud.

The early setback of losing Regan Herbert to injury did not hamper Stroud’s attacking intent and an early outside break from Kurtis Herbert released Ashenford on the left wing, who looked as though he was in at the corner only to be denied by a last ditch tackle.

Early territorial dominance however could not be converted into points.

This would eventually be punished as Cheltenham made their first major incursion into Stroud territory a profitable one. Taking the opportunity to spread play wider for the first time and with Stroud’s defence drifting, a clever inside ball produced a line break that was exploited by finding their pacey winger, who stepped and finished to open the scoring.

Ashenford collected a clearance kick and fed Phipps, who again showed strength and elusiveness to return the ball. Carries from Smith and Higgins continued the momentum before Stratton took play on only to be felled by a high tackle. Seizing the initiative, Hendry took a quick tap and set off on another powerful surge, he found Leworthy on his shoulder before the inside ball found Hoyle running an excellent support line to cross close to the posts. Herbert converted.

In the second half, Stroud had the advantage of the strengthening wind. Hendry regained the kick-off, drove on and was only stopped 5m out but a great clear out provided quick ball for Hoyle, who found Gordon running a direct line. Committing two tacklers he offloaded for Herbert to cross under the posts. Herbert converted.

Cheltenham though were now gaining the lion’s share of possession and their pick and drive game provided momentum and despite solid work around the fringes from Stratton and Higgins they moved into the Stroud half. Cheltenham continued to drive close in and eventually barrelled their way over in the right hand corner.

Herbert released Sykes who made ground up the right before finding Phipps on the inside. Hoyle again was running the classic support line and looked to be in again only to be felled 5m out. Stroud’s scrummaging paid dividends with Hendry picking and surging over on the right hand side. Herbert Converted.

Cheltenham again reverted to their pick and drive game and eventually the forwards drove over from close range. Try converted.

Cheltenham continued to press and began to find holes in the Stroud defence. An unfortunate ricochet resulted in the ball breaking across the line for Cheltenham to ground and score.

Herbert narrowly missed two penalties but with the last play of the game, a solid scrum allowed Gordon to hit Herbert on the crash ball. Hendry picked up at the base and power his way straight through the middle to cross by the posts. Herbert converted.