RUGBY UNION: National Two
Stourbridge 28 Launceston 27
Stourbridge gained their fifth victory of the season, inflicting on second-placed Launceston a second defeat — both by a piont — in a stirring contest throbbing with fine, fluent rugby amid much entirely legal physicality.
It was compensation for three weeks of agonising defeats, having twice lost at home by a combined margin of five points and gone down to the boot of Neil Hallett at leaders Esher despite matching them in tries.
Launceston were far bigger, quick and sure in support and handling but Stour, superbly led by No 8 Jim Jenner, yet again showed their ability to put bodies in the line of fire and take their chances.
There were four phases of rapid recycling in the Stourbridge 22 before Launceston winger Andy Matchett's opening seventh-minute try but Stour were never behind from the tenth minute when Alistair Bressington converted their first try.
That came as Stour twice stretched the visitors over the width of the field before hooker Ben Gerry, having loitered there, scampered over the line in the right corner.
After falling inches short with a penalty from fully 64 yards, Bressington put one over from 58 yards and added a simple one when Launceston prop Wayne Reed was sin-binned for persistent team infringement.
Fourteen-man Launceston still conjured a ten-yard forward drive for lock Steve Pape to reply with their second try but Stourbridge led 20-10 at half time as Tom Jordan cut back inside from midfield and Bressington converted the flanker's score.
Bressington extended the lead with a 27-yard, 43-minute penalty but by 74 minutes Launceston had cut it to only three points as Sam Young, unsuccessful with three earlier kicks, converted flanker Josh Lord's penalty tap-and-drive try and landed a penalty.
Home fly-half Sam Robinson's astute chip into the corner just evaded flying winger Greg Summers but Stourbridge won a Launceston line-out, prop James Tideswell plunged over and they had an eight-point cushion entering stoppage time. That was just as well because the visitors earned the consolation of two bonus points for four tries and narrow defeat with hooker Dave Risdon's try converted by Young to end a match to savour.
Esher 55 Nuneaton 3
Nuneaton were the latest side to suffer from the class of unbeaten league leaders Esher and the ability of ace kicker Neil Hallett, who contributed 25 points with five conversions and five penalties.
Clutching at straws and playing catch-up rugby from the early stages when they might have done better keeping things tight, Nuns' only success was a Gareth Cull penalty which made the score 14-3 at the start of the second quartrer.
Esher even scored 24 of their points while down to 14 men after the 54th-minute dismissal of captain and prop Duncan Cormack for his second foul play yellow card of the match.
The Premiership experience and pace of ex-Harlequins winger Matt Moore earned him three long-ragne tries. Cormack and two replacements, hooker Simon Elkington and flanker Alex Mockford, scored the others.