Stow 23 Thatcham 18
Southern Counties North
STOW maintained top spot with a hard fought victory over a Thatcham side who showed why they had only been beaten once previously in the league this season.
It was clear from the outset on Saturday that these were two evenly matched sides and again Stow were very slow to start and were immediately on the defensive.
This early pressure led to Stow giving away several penalties and from one the Thatcham scrum half took a quick tap and danced over in the corner for a try.
Stow were struggling to string any phases together and when they did have possession gave away too many penalties. Thatcham benefited from this with two penalties to take their lead to 11-0.
Towards the end of the first half Stow woke up and it was then the visitors’ turn to concede penalties and Nick Cafearo stepped up to kick a long range effort to get Stow on the board and leave them trailing by eight points at the break.
The second half saw a total change as Stow took control up front which gave them a great platform to release the lively back line. A penalty to Stow was kicked to touch and from the resulting lineout a great driving maul took play into the Thatcham 22.
Alex Kelly took the pass and brilliantly danced his way past three tackles to score close to the posts and leave Cafearo the easiest of conversions.
Stow then took the lead with Cafearo’s second penalty when the visitors were penalised for not binding in the scrum. Stow were now on top and took control when a fantastic break from James Holmes from inside his own half took play deep into Thatcham territory and a clever cross-field chip was pounced on by Mark Witney who touched down before Cafearo converted.
Stow were now cruising and should have extended they lead but following another long distance break Kelly could not quite hold on to the ball as he crossed the line.
Thatcham stormed back into he game when Stow created an overlap but the final pass was intercepted for a converted try under the posts.
However, Cafearo’s third penalty took Stow five points clear and with only a few minutes left on the clock they just needed to hold out.
From the restart Stow dropped the ball and were now on the rack. Thatcham attacked with everything they had and with the last play managed to get over the line but the solid Stow defence held the ball up and with it they sealed victory.
On Saturday Stow, who have won seven of their eight league games, travel to Wallingford.