Stamford Rugby Club beat Stockwood Park
Stamford produced one of their best all-round performances of recent seasons in Saturday's 49-0 away win at Stockwood Park.
The emphatic victory moved them within six points of second-placed Market Bosworth who went down to a 28-26 reversal at league leaders Daventry.
Stamford had made the journey down the M1 to Luton hoping to bring forward the attitude and confidence of recent weeks.
It was Stamford who started strongest, using the forwards to carry the ball and make ground.
When released, the backs showed good pace and the ability to pass the ball to a man in enough space to stretch the home defence.
Stockwood fought hard to stop the runners and cleared the ball to touch. The line out was won by Ben Chisholm and the ball moved quickly to inside centre Dan Heard who ran in under the posts for the opening try that was converted by Harry Bentley.
The purple, black and whites realised that the running tactics were splitting the Park defence.
Following a sprint down the wing by Charlie Penrose-Toms, the ball was carried on by the forwards and Harley Riches scored a try which was again converted.
Stockwood tried to break the Stamford defence but the back row trio of Ed Cox, George Cox and Jack Jones hit them with big tackles to knock them backwards.
Town were now dominating all aspects of the game and, following a good scrum drive, the ball was fed out to Heard who repeated his previous run for his second try, again converted by Bentley.
The Stamford attack was now linking forwards and backs and forcing the Stockwood players to turn and chase back.
When Park kicked out of defence, full-back Steven Fuchs caught the ball on the run and returned the kick with interest which was knocked on.
Stamford drove the resulting scrum with power and Cox was unfortunate to tackled just short of the line as the half-time score stayed at 0-21.
The hosts tried to break through from the kick off but were stopped and Tristram Small stole the ball which was moved quickly to winger Dave Martin who beat his man and then sprinted away and finished under the posts for another converted try.
This was the fourth try of the game so the bonus point was now secured.
Stockwood were now desperate to get on the scoreboard and worked hard to get into the Stamford half before releasing their backs to run.
When they tried a long pass, it was read perfectly by Dan Heard who intercepted and ran half the length of the pitch to complete his hat-trick. Bentley again converted to make it 0-35 at this point.
The game continued with Park trying everything to gain ground and the Stamford defence sending them back.
From one such move, Stockwood got to the Stamford 22 and passed to their backs but it was again intercepted by Heard who had to run in from further out this time for his fourth try and, just to keep the balance, Bentley again converted.
To their credit, Stockwood came back and camped in the Stamford 22 but all of their efforts were snuffed out by a Town defence that was determined to keep them out.
The referee adjudged Stamford to be offside and skipper Jack Jones was shown a yellow card, but this didn't prevent the Town defence stopping Park at every attack.
The official again penalised Stamford and another yellow was shown but, if Stockwood thought playing against 13 men was going to make it easier, they soon discovered otherwise.
Stamford stopped everything thrown at them and, when Park finally lost the ball, Fuchs kicked clear from the try line to halfway.
Stamford turned over the resulting line out and Joe Ireland combined with George Cox to send the returning Jones clear to score the final try.
With Bentley now off the pitch, it was Fuchs who converted to make it seven converted tries after a display which left coach Matt Albinson full of praise for his side.
He said: "The players that have recently broken into the side have integrated well and the final run-in part of the season is looking very promising."
Stamford are next in league action on Saturday, February 17, when they host Vipers.