Stafford stand tall against top of the league Ludlow in difficult December conditions at the County Ground.
Stafford welcomed the league leaders Ludlow to the County Ground for the last home league game of the year. The teams last met in the 2014/15 league season with both teams holding the home wins. With the visitors sitting top of the table and only having lost two games all season it was going to be a strong test for a battling Staffordshire side. Unavailability forced Stafford into a last-minute change fielding an untested linesman, who had a decent debut and with a bit of coaching could have a bright future at the club.
A swirling wind set the back drop for the first half and securing the starting kick, Ludlow scythed through Stafford for an opening try. The next score wasn’t long in coming as the visitors stretched the defence and powered through for the second try. With less than ten minutes gone the league leaders were showing their form and the county town faithful were having to defend ferociously. Stafford scrapped for every opportunity and with the glimpse of a half gap Sam Chatfield tore through the visitor’s defence crashing down just short of the line. The platform was set, Obi Ley nearly scoring until the home side forced a penalty. Taking the scrum option, Stafford smashed into the defenders with Gaz O’Connor forcing his way across the line for a well-deserved try. The skies opened and rain started to sheet across the pitch making playing conditions difficult for both teams. A Ludlow penalty stretched the lead before a prowling Dave Wareham intercepted a loose pass, using all of his experience he ran the length of the pitch before being chopped down deep in Shropshire territory. The swarming Stafford follow up retrieved the ball for Sam Chatfield to take the try, converted by Lewis Cantrill. A subsequent Ludlow try re-established a buffer before Phil Kay came off with a slight knock. Clayton Haigh replaced him for five minutes before sustaining an injury and Phil Kay had to retake the field. Stafford went into half time trailing 12-22, but having took the most of any opportunity presented to them.
The driving rain set the scene for the majority of the second half, obscuring visibility and making a greasy ball difficult for either of the sides to hold onto. An injury to Callum Hoy left Stafford with only a single substitute on the bench and the fifteen having to be reshuffled on the pitch. The home side dug in, battling hard but the league leaders were clinical in working their way to a fourth try and the bonus point. With Phil Kay now permanently off injured the Stafford bench was empty, leaving the players on the pitch to cope with the conditions and an ever-present Ludlow threat. A brave Stafford performance limited the visitors to a single further try before the referee’s whistle signalled the end of a testing afternoon of rugby.