15:53 Sunday 08 December 2013

Stoke 20, Burton 32

Written byRUGBY REPORTER

A JAMES Burrough try 10 minutes from the end finally ended the resistance of a Stoke side who played almost three-quarters of the match with 14 men.

A starting XV composed entirely of former Colts lined up for Burton.

Damon Varney gathered Stoke’s kick-off before running over the first tackler to set up a ruck. Luke Peach kicked long and Dave Archer chased the ball down to force a turnover.

Stoke regained possession and made their way into the Burton half before a penalty gave the Potteries outfit a three-point lead.

A mistake-littered passage of play followed. For 15 minutes passes failed to go to hand and the Crofters barely got over halfway.

Eventually, Peach and Harry Titley combined well to take play to the Stoke 22. From a strong Burton scrum Stoke stepped offside and Dave Archer’s kick levelled the scores.

Arguably, the game-changing moment took place minutes later.

Both teams’ physiotherapists took to the field as Burton were awarded a penalty.

Archer enquired if he could take a quick tap and on the nod from the referee, he carved through the defence to score and then convert.

The Stoke players were incensed and their scrum-half was dismissed for his reaction.

With the numerical advantage the visitors began to gel, and a sweeping move involving Josh Cartwright, Archer and Sam Benjamin took play 40 metres inside the Stoke half.

The hosts regained possession but then knocked-on. Some slick handling moved the ball out to Titley – towards the left wing – before he cut back in and went under the posts. Archer added the extras.

Five minutes later a stunning try arrived from Ben Marshall.

The left wing received the ball on his own 10-metre line before taking his opposite number on the outside, and then stepping inside the full-back to score.

Burton then let Stoke back into the game. A 30-metre counter-attack was followed by a penalty kicked to the corner.

And an unconverted try made the half-time score 24-8 in Burton’s favour.

The Crofters opened the second half by giving away a string of penalties – one of which was kicked wide before Rowley took a quick tap and evaded several would-be tacklers to score under the sticks.

Craig Dutton then replaced the injured Cartwright at lock.

Ben Cook tidied up a loose ball before Marshall, Peach, Ed Henry and Tom Murphy took play to the 22.

A Stoke player entered a ruck from the side and Archer found the target once again with the subsequent penalty.

Burrough replaced Ben Burchell at hooker. Further penalties were conceded by the Crofters and Titley was then yellow-carded as Stoke approached the try-line.

A great piece of skill from Stoke’s centre closed the gap to just seven points.

Direct play by Varney, Cook, Murphy and Matt Tivey took play deep into the Stoke 22.

Darryl Banton opted to release his backs but unfortunately a pass went forward when a try seemed certain.

Ian Gilmour replaced Archer but only minutes later he was back on the field for the hobbling Benjamin.

Stoke attacked again before Archer intercepted and Tom Cooper kicked deep. Burton swarmed forward and turned the ball over, and Burrough took the ball blind – crossing for a try.

Archer missed the difficult kick, but crucially Burton enjoyed a 12-point cushion.

Stoke rallied, but Dutton turned over and then Joe Gazzard surged up the field after taking a line-out.

The injury toll was severe for both sides and Burchell retuned on the flank in place of Henry.

Dutton and Cooper broke up the final Stoke attack to give the Crofters five points and extend their advantage over third-placed Walsall, who are Burton’s next opponents, to a healthy eight points.

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