NatWest Cup – Dramatic conclusion at Stamford sees Warwick progress after a thriller

This 2013/14 NatWest Cup just gets better and better, the drama and excitement just keeps on building, and the last 16 tie between Stamford and Warwick was as dramatic as they come.

We have already seen a few ties coming down to the away team rule or the most tries scored, last minute tries are nothing new, but nothing – not even that dramatic Bicton comeback over Sir Thomas Rich’s – can compare to the last minute drama that unfolded up in Rutland.

After a relatively comfortable first half for the home side – they went 7-0 up early on and stretched that out to ten with a penalty before conceding a late try – they exploded out of the traps at the start of the second, scoring from the first paly after the restart as they built up some irresistible momentum through their powerful forward play, stretching the lead out to 17-5.

It might not seem it on paper but on a wet, cold, miserable winter’s day it certainly seemed close to insurmountable and the feeling was that Warwick were down and out. The process of making the necessary yardage was just so challenging in the boggy conditions – credit to the Stamford ground staff though for somehow managing to keep the pitch playable.

Warwick have shown all season though that they are nothing if not plucky, and they are a whole lot more than just that in truth, and they lived up to that again as they battered back at Stamford time and time again.

The home side looked strong though but then disaster struck; as they looked to clear their lines the heavy footedness caused by the conditions, allied to fantastic Warwick line speed, allowed Warwick to charge down the kick and stroll in under the posts to reduce the deficit to just five points.

Still you felt that Stamford, with that incredible unbeaten home run that stretches back almost three years, would be able to close out the game. However the unthinkable then happened as Warwick again charged down a clearance kick.

This time though there was far more to do, the kick was charged down just shy of the halfway line but Warwick’s athletic right winger showed outstanding pace and footballing ability to fly hack the ball down field two or three times, whilst leaving a couple of would-be defenders behind to touch down in the corner.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the scores were tied and slowly the realisation crept through that in that scenario, Warwick were going through, and with just under ten minutes left on the clock; they surely were.

Stamford looked visibly shaken for a few minutes, however their pride at that home record and their determination to progress to the quarter finals of the NatWest Cup saw them soon rally.

Setting up ruck after ruck they began to build some irresistible momentum, running with incredible power and seeming to just surge towards the Warwick try line. Warwick infringed, but the pause in play did not halt the Stamford momentum, and with barely any time left on the clock they powered over the line.

With the try being scored right out on the touchline the conversion just inched wide, but it mattered not, the game was surely Stamford’s, time was running out fast and a 22-17 lead seemed comfortable enough, Warwick would have to score a try.

All Stamford really had to do was to collect the restart, hold onto it for a couple of phases and then boot the ball out, however Warwick –as they had done all game – worked ferociously hard to win the ball back before time ran out, winning themselves a penalty for their efforts.

The call from the referee was that there was enough time for a lineout but that it would be the last play, so the away side went for it; the hail Mary now or never play, booting the ball to the corner and telling their forwards that this was their time.

Only a minute ago they had been going through, now they were headed for an exit, this was their one shot to get back into the last eight.

The ball went up, and salmon like they hauled it back down to form the maul. What a maul it was too, mauls are normally slow and steady things but this one set off like a rocket, such was the adrenalin fueled determination seeping through the Warwick pack.

They surged through with incredible power before flopping over the line for the try that leveled the game and sent them through, sparking wild and deserved celebrations.

Rarely has a game seen such a dramatic finish, both sides thought they had scored a late winning try, but it was to be Warwick, with that last second play, who were to be the ones taking the spoils.

The try only leveled the scores at 22-22 but that was enough for Warwick who as the side with the most tries, and the away side, would progress.

That left the conversion as a bit of an irrelevance, and so sure enough it drifted wide, however it did leave Stamford with one small triumph – their unbeaten home record remains intact, just.

A draw was a fitting way to end the game though, both sides had competed ferociously throughout, and neither could have really begrudged the other progressing. The story of this game was not the identity of the winner though, the story of the game was the drama itself.

What that drama will do though is send Warwick into their quarter final away at Stowe feeling as though they are capable of doing whatever it takes to win, no matter what the clock says.

Final Score: Stamford 22-22 Warwick (Warwick progress on tries scored).

Photos of the game are available on our Facebook Page

Were you at the game? What did you think of it, and do you think that Warwick can beat Stowe? Let us know via the comment box below or via @FifteenRugbyXV

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