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Salisbury 45-26 Shipston-on-Stour

4th. February 2023: Salisbury welcomed Shipston-on-Stour to Castle Road for their first visit, an event delayed by the frosts of early December. In the corresponding fixture, early in the season, the Green and Whites had threatened before fading in the second half.

The coaches, Gareth Blackborow and Jonah Thorpe, seem to have addressed this problem and the side look much stronger of late.

With barely a minute on the board, and some supporters still to take their favoured seat in the Garth Parsons stand, fullback Henry Toomer instigated and finished a fine move to put the hosts ahead, Xavier Hastings kicking the points. Salisbury then showed off their skills again with Jack Colby darting in for the second score; Hastings again put the cream on the cake with his boot.

The visitors seemed to have shaken the long journey from their legs and responded with a try from Charlie Hutchings but Hastings replied by crossing for a score to keep the lead at 14 points. A try, deemed controversial by some spectators, followed down the left wing and saw Shipton narrow the gap though Henry Hopkins, converted by Rob James, to narrow the half time score line to 19-12.

Salisbury were dominating in the tight, the second row pairing of Luke Newton and James Humphreys giving the veteran props Blackborow and Mike Dauwalder plenty of help and ensuring an easy ride for hooker James Dance. The back row were causing constant problems and Bobby Spiers and Hastings were everywhere. Despite pressure Ross Bealey and scrum half Sandy Wheatley were able to deal with both good and disrupted ball.

Barely four minutes into the second half Benedict Wheeler crossed under the posts at the scoreboard end for the bonus point try, Hastings added the extras, and from the restart Toomer ran the ball back for another score. Another slick move put Tom Tully in for a score and Hastings made no mistake with the points.

The visitors were on the ropes but not out and a try from Isaac Clayton, converted by James, showed belligerent intent. Wheatley was having none of it and capped a fine performance with a try engineered himself, and once again Hastings and his trusty boot stepped up to, narrowly, secure the Man Of The Match accolade, and kick the final points for the city side.  Shipton ruffled the victors’ feathers with another late converted score through the Clayton and James combo, giving them a bonus point in defeat.

Salisbury will be pleased with the reward for their graft and guile, Blackborow and Thorpe will be pleased with the side they are shaping. Grove are the next visitors to the Castle Road fortress and all spectators are welcome.

Report and photo: Neil Tonge

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Salisbury RFC
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