Stewarts & Lloyds 14
Brackley opened the 2011-12 league season with a gutsy performance at home to Stewarts & Lloyds.
Relegated from Midlands 2 East (South) at the end of last season, the Corby team were largely an unknown quantity but soon showed their mettle by storming into an early 11-point lead.
Yet Brackley checked the advance to deny Stewarts & Lloyds any further score and tightened the screw with tries on either side of half time to secure victory by two tries, one conversion and a penalty goal against two tries and two conversions.
Though the winning margin could not have been narrower, this was a fine all-round effort from Brackley.
After staring at defeat in a first quarter in which the Stewarts & Lloyds back row served up two converted tries in quick succession, Brackley effectively shut their visitors out of the game.
Having just about stayed in touch with a penalty goal from fly-half Ray Wood, the home side drew closer with an unconverted try wide out on the left from second row Neil Shackleton, changing ends with the score at 14-8.
Now with a stiff breeze at their backs, Brackley made intelligent use of the conditions to pin Stewarts & Lloyds deep in their own half. Precise kicking from Wood and inside centre Graeme Cartmell repeatedly turned the opposition, and when Stewarts & Lloyds did try to run from deep, they met with resolute defence across the park.
Losing possession on one such occasion minutes into the second period, the visitors had no time to regroup their defence before left wing Rory Thomas gathered the ball near halfway and powered his way down the tramlines for a magnificent try, converted by Wood.
In the lead for the first time in the match, Brackley continued to dominate play but there was no further score as they apparently settled on containing Stewarts & Lloyds within their 10 metre line. This safety first strategy wasn’t risk free however as Stewarts & Lloyds demonstrated five minutes from time when they at last broke free of Brackley’s stranglehold and launched a penetrating attack along the right wing. Only a match-saving covering tackle by Cartmell – who was immense throughout – ensured Brackley were not denied victory at the last gasp.
This weekend Brackley travel to Bedford Queens, who went down 18-3 at home in last Saturday’s opening league fixture against Rushden & Higham.