Cheltenham North 5 – Smiths Rugby 45
Smiths Rugby finished their pre-season off in style winning 45-5 at Cheltenham North. After two close games last season with North winning both, Smiths’ improvement was impressive with a dominant display.
Starting strongly on a warm, close afternoon, Smiths were soon on the attack with a couple of line breaks supported well by the Smiths back row and sharp handling seeing flankers Charles Peters and Ben Hawker get a try each. Having played poo…rly in the first half when the sides met 14-0 with kicks from 10 Will Pritchett was the perfect start to the day for Smiths side.
The North hit back though after Smith switched off for a tapped penalty on their 22m letting a simple play through to score. Although committed in defence Smiths can certainly find some greater discipline to their shape when under pressure.
With the momentary lapse put to one side Smiths were soon on the front foot again with centre James Irwin-Singer enjoying the space he was afforded by the North defence. It was he who got the next score and Peters followed up with another supporting line to make it 4 tries to 1. Pritchett adding the extras again for 28-5. Played slowed a little half time and there were no further scores.
The message at half time was to not drop the fierce intensity and effort that Smiths were applying. A great defensive effort, typified by fullback Euan Whitbourne with a try-saving tackle, kept North at bay. Once that storm had been seen off Smiths were able to have another crack at the home side. Winger Andrew Hockley this time finishing strongly to extend the lead to 33-5.
After a powerful showing against Cirencester, the Smiths tight five knew they would have a sterner test against the North. They met that test and then some with the North not having clean scrum possession all match and using the driving maul to good effect. Smiths next try came after a scrum penalty won in midfield. Whether it was meant or not was debated strongly in the bar but instead of finding touch with his kick, Tom Wardell’s effort fell into the arms of winger Jacob Lake in the North 22. Showing good pace and timing of his pass his sent centre Alex Whitbourne over for Smiths 6th try wide on the right.
With one last effort Smiths tight 5 were again to the fore, firstly with a lineout that was driven just short and then a 5m scrum. With North pulling the scrum down the opportunity to add a 7th try looked over but quick thinking from young No 8 Ellis Hill kept them moving. A dart down the short side saw him tackled well but and Kieran Read-esque offload had scrum half Richard Markey dotting down in the right corner. Tom Wardell issued the final coup de grace with a touchline conversion and Smiths were 45-5 winners.
Words courtesy of Julius Bryant/ Images courtesy of Skinny Tins