This Western Counties North top of the table-clash exceeded expectations and more as a great game was on display at Norton Down, where the result was decided with the final play of the game.
Midsomer Norton began playing down the slope in the first half, they held possession of the ball for long periods, but Stroud’s defence held firm, with most of the half being played in the away side’s half. Ben Taylor got the scores underway with two penalty kicks, followed by a debut try for 17 year-old Noah Watts, who displayed his young talent throughout the match. Before half-time, Stroud also slotted a penalty and converted try, taking the score to 13-10 going into the break.
The second half began and it was clear that both sides were well up for the contest, both sides carried the ball well up front. Stroud looked dangerous out wide, while Norton’s scrum had the upper hand – resulting in penalties within the range of Taylor, who calmly kicked from the tee as usual.
As the second half progressed, holes in both sides’ defence began to appear. Norton’s scrum-half, Luke Murphy, darted from the base of a scrum, he glided through the defence to score a great individual try.
The visitors then replied as they capitalised on Norton’s untidy kick-off and the ball was spread to the opposite touchline for the Stroud winger to touch down in the corner.
Following another try for Norton’s Noah Watts, as well as Stroud crossing the whitewash again, the scores were 28-27 in favour of Norton with five minutes to play.
Norton had possession of the ball inside the Stroud half, with the intention of running down the clock. Of course Stroud had other ideas. In the last play of the game Stroud managed to rip the ball in contact to regain possession, they spread the ball wide sharply, as they did all game. A link-up in the backs saw them go three-quarters of the pitch to score and win the match, 27-34.
Heartbreak for Norton, who played very well, but what a game of rugby this was, a hard-fought, equal contest that Stroud edged on this occasion. The visitors deserve massive credit for being clinical in the dying seconds to clinch victory.
Cotham Park 2nd XV 49 Midsomer Norton 3rd XV 7
The Thirds were forced to travel on Saturday when their scheduled opposition, Chard, cried off at late notice. Fortunately Norton found Cotham Park to be in a similar position, so they made the trip to Failand. What followed was a good-natured game, with both sides just pleased to be able to play a game of rugby. There was a slight gap in the playing standard, but Norton thoroughly enjoyed the battle and made the hosts work hard for their win.
Cotham were well drilled and employed a pod system, which it took Norton some time to get to grips with. During this time Cotham pulled into a commanding lead as with the Norton defence committed, they used their pacy back line to good effect.
Gradually though, Norton fought their way back into the game. Scrum half Ian Tiley began to pin the hosts in their own twenty two, and this gave Norton the attacking platform they needed. The scrum then came into their own as they began to exert pressure on the Cotham line. Their defence was good however, and they held out for a long period before the ball was worked wide for prop, James Todd, to come into the line and score a try that his performance deserved. Full back Kieran Behoo capped an excellent game with the difficult conversion.
Unfortunately for Norton, Todd left the fray soon after due to injury, and Norton’s spell of dominance came to an end. For Norton the star men were the back row duo of Ronnel Tayag and Kevin Herbert, who competed excellently at the breakdown.
Norton kept the home attack in check for long periods of the second half and had a couple of half-chances themselves, but again the hosts stood up to the task and prevented any further score. As bodies tired they scored on a number of occasions to ensure they ran out worthy winners.Norton would like to thank Cotham for their hospitality, and wish them well for the rest of the season.