Stone Rugby Club’s winning season ended in cup final heartbreak last Sunday as they were beaten by a strong Essington XV in the Rubery Owen Cup Final.
Having secured a place in their first ever cup final Stone started the day cautiously but optimistic of causing something of an upset. Kicking off into a strong breeze Stone were immediately forced onto the back foot, with frequent errors handing Essington both territory and possession.
Stone’s defence was up to its usual standards but despite opportunities to move up the pitch a misfiring lineout lost all ground gained and, with no chances to leave their 22, the pressure soon began to mount. Having defended almost constantly for around 20 minutes Stone eventually began to leak points. Essington breached the Stone defence three times in the next 10 minutes with a combination of well-worked moves, good fortune and Stone’s inability to string any phases together.
Having been well beaten for the first 30 minutes Stone finally began to show something close to their true form, moving the ball up the pitch to set up a positive position on the stroke of half time. With a penalty advantage Stone sprayed the ball left but when an overlap was ignored the move broke down and a chance to kick at goal was given, John Bekalo missing the chance for 3 points to leave Stone 19 points down at half time and with a mountain to climb.
A stirring half-time talk sent Stone into the second half with new-found passion and after securing the kick-off they began to move their way down the pitch. With the try line at their mercy a loose pass from Stone was hacked forward by Essington who charged forward and, despite Stone’s best attempts to scramble back, scored their fourth try of the match. With the result all but inevitable and nothing but pride to play for, Stone finally scored their first try, phase play following a line out dragged in the defence and the ball was shipped left for Danny Cutler to cross the line, with the conversion added.
Whilst the try breathed new life into Stone, Essington had other plans and soon restored their lead with another well-worked try. Soon after Stone’s momentum was further dented when second row Max Mann was sin binned for persistent team infringements. With Stone down to 14 Essington soon extended their lead with their final try to well and truly end the game as a contest.
Much like the first half, Stone finally began to produce something close to their top form in the final 10 minutes and were rewarded with two tries of their own, firstly John Bekalo playing his final match as captain – crossed over, before Danny Cutler added his second at the death, the conversion kick followed by the final whistle.