Smiths Hamsters secured a convincing 32-11 away victory over familiar rivals Cheltenham Civil Service seconds on Saturday.
Play was largely in the Smiths 22 as despite producing some effective defence, they failed to clear their lines convincingly.
Ten minutes of pressure finally told with a ruck offence penalised by the referee. It was testament to Smiths’ miserly defence that Service chose to kick at goal for a 3-0 lead.
A feature of the opening exchanges was the dominance of Smiths’ scrum with evergreen prop Graham Lake and new boy Alex Crowley doing the damage. A series of scrums led to a Service prop having to leave the field for treatment.
Smiths finally made some progress in attack and cut open the Service line but a last drive by Naylor was repelled. Questionable ruck intervention by Service led to a turnover and the opportunity was lost.
Soon back on the attack, Smiths pulled off a move straight from the training ground. A shortened lineout for Smiths found flanker Wayne Hopson on the hoof. Smiths’ man of the match stepped one and ploughed through and the number ten touched down for 5-3 lead.
Just before half-time, Smiths’ centre Nic Walters made a pacy break through midfield. Tackled high, Smiths’ tap penalty was intercepted and the lead was back at 8-5.
Back on the attack after kick off, Smiths sent a penalty into the Service corner. The attempted lineout wasn’t effective but pressure on the Service scrum gave the visitors a free-kick.
Having moved to nine from number ten, Richard Markey took a quick tap from five metres and reached out to score. Soon after Hopson showed his strength again and scored his second from close range to give Smiths a 15-8 lead.
Service were stirred into action and Smiths’ defence were forced to concede a penalty that again was kicked to reduce the arrears briefly to 15-11.
Smiths attacked through Adam Ginns with a step and offload to Nobunao Hirano who powered through the middle. Service were penalised for not releasing and Chris Dickson tapped quickly and passed the ball to Cliff Bere who selflessly gave a scoring pass to Markey for his second (20-11).
Smiths were on a high now and next to score was Jacob Lake with the pick of Smiths’ scores.
Forward Andy Hill then hit a wonderful supporting line after a dart from number nine Joe Hemming. Showing good footwork, Hill dotted down behind the posts, leaving an easy conversion for Hemming to make the final score 32-11.
After many close games between the teams in recent years, this showed a marked improvement by the Hamsters’ squad.