Good win in difficult conditions for Town
By Howard Crompton
A gale force wind blowing right across the pitch made conditions difficult for both sides. Despite this, both teams turned up with the intention of playing an open game, which led to an entertaining encounter.
Although Kilburn Cosmos were never in front, they did fight back to within five points of Stevenage with thirteen minutes left, until two late penalties by Gareth Lewis put the match beyond the hosts and deprived them of a losing bonus point.
Stevenage will however, believe that they should have put the match well beyond Kilburn Cosmos much earlier had they been more clinical in their finishing and taken the chances that their good work created.
As it was, Stevenage secured their twelfth try bonus point of the season, a record bettered only by champions in waiting, London Welsh.
Town opened the scoring as early as the 6th minute starting with taking a scrum against the head. This was a sign of things to come for Kilburn as they struggled against the power of the Stevenage pack all afternoon. The Stevenage front row of Barry Cook, Darren Outram and Bradley Cook stood firm throughout. No 8, Phil Pearson took the ball on and a superb pass from Jesse Tipene took out two defenders leaving Vinnie Kevans the job of putting Alex Banna in for the try. Lewis added the conversion.
Kilburn responded quickly with the first of their three tries in the 12th minute. All three Kilburn tries followed a similar pattern of quickly taken penalty kicks around five metres out and crashing over the line. First up it was flanker Alastair Bursey, who saw the gap and scored the try.
Stevenage moved the ball well; their new half back combination of Ian Crompton and Tipene provided quick ball, which kept them on the front foot for most of the match, creating several good chances, which went begging. They did score their second try in the 18th minute, when such a flowing move was finished off by right wing, George Turvey, who still had a lot to do to touch down in the corner.
Good, quick ball also resulted in Town’s third try in the 24th minute. Crompton and Tipene combined to put Banna away on one of his trademark runs to score under the post. Lewis converted to extend the lead to 19 – 5.
Stevenage’s inability to take full advantage of the scoring opportunities created meant that Kilburn Cosmos were always in striking distance and they reduced the arrears to seven points before half time. This time, prop Dan Caplin drove over after Stevenage had conceded two quick penalties close to their try line.
Town extended the daylight further in the 51st minute with an opportunist try by Michael Wilson. At the end of another flowing move, he saw a gap in the Kilburn Cosmos defence and weaved through it to score a fine try.
Despite more sustained pressure, Town were unable to add to their score and the Stevenage nerves were jangling when Caplin scored a carbon copy of his first try in the 67th minute, which was converted by Fraser Hutt, to bring the home side within five points.
Two penalties by Lewis in the 73rd and 76th minutes settled the nerves and the match. The second penalty resulted from another blistering break by Banna, ably supported by Tipene and Ben Hodge.
Apart from squandering a number of try scoring opportunities, this was a good performance by Stevenage in difficult conditions. They will be disappointed at the way they conceded three tries but the overall defence was sound, with Wes Moore again devastating in the tackle. Scott Quarmby and Conor Mitchell were prominent in the ball carrying department; Pearson was again dominant in the line out and replacements Adam Amos and Jack Zbucki made important contributions when they came on to make this a good team effort.
There is a week off, next week before the final three league matches of the season, starting with a home fixture against Tabard on 23 March.
Stevenage Town Team: Michael Wilson, George Turvey, Vinnie Kevans (Jack Zbucki 68 mins), Gareth Lewis, Alex Banna, Jesse Tipene, Ian Crompton, Barry Cook, Darren Outram, Bradley Cook, Conor Mitchell (Adam Amos 49 mins), Scott Quarmby, Ben Hodge, Wes Moore, Phil Pearson
Subs not used: None
Tries: Alex Banna (2)
Conversions: Gareth Lewis (2)
Penalties: Gareth Lewis (2)