Stowe have already beaten Oakham and Warwick this season, as well as winning the pre season Tynedale Festival. They are a good side.
A last minute loss on the opening day to Stamford will have hurt them, though certainly not shamed them, and meant that victory away at Solihull was a must in order to keep that win/loss column looking as it should for a side of their quality.
Solihull are no mugs though, they had already played four times this season, winning three and losing just one, to Kingâ€™s Worcester. They are defending a proud record from last season, which saw them finish as one of the top sides in the country.
That pride and determination posed a pretty solid wall in the way of Stowe yesterday, one that was made thicker by the absence of a few of Stoweâ€™s stars to injury, not least of which was their England U18 international wing/centre, Rotimi Segun.
Through the opening quarter of the game it looked like it might be a wall that Stowe might not be able to knock down. Having exchanged early penalties Solihull the scored a lovely try through their full back after some neat play from both forwards and backs, the home side led 10-3.
Solihull were on the up but Stowe were building, learning, looking for a way to pick their way through that wall rather than bulldoze it away. A penalty helped them narrow the gap to four points but there were still too many handling errors, the sense was though that if Stowe got their timing right, they had the skills to get moving.
They also had a pretty handy man to step up and plug the void left by Segun, his younger brother Tosin. The young centre is not yet in sixth form yet physically already had the beating of several of the others. Like his brother he is stocky, powerful, and fast, and he was soon put to good use, getting his hands on the ball and running at the Solihull defence.
Equally key though was Stoweâ€™s young fly half, the Scotland U16 international Gregor Haldane. He began to create the time and space around him to start really rallying his backline and it swiftly paid off. In five short minutes Stowe had crossed the line twice. They were similar tries, both involved fast and powerful rucking from the pack before silky hands from the backline to release first their full back, and second the right wing, whose finish was excellent.
It gave Stowe a 16-10 lead and having been under pressure early on they were now really fizzing. Haldane was putting width on the ball and forwards were mixing with backs well. Crucially, forwards were being trusted in wide positions to make decision with the ball in hand, something that is seen all to rarely but something that makes a big impact.
It was that trust in the forward pack which was to prove vital, the forwards broke down the right hand side, working their way expertly between the Solihull defence to release their scrum half who raced away to score.
It was a clinical try and an important psychological moment too, Haldaneâ€™s conversion came right on the stroke of half time putting Stowe 23-10 up and with momentum firmly with them.
To be fair to Solihull though, they came out for the second half with real fire in their bellies. At Fifteen Rugby we have witnessed many sides suffer a blow like that and then just collapse, not so Solihull, they are made of stern stuff.
They battered away at the Stowe defence but just cold not break through, the away defence was proving a stubborn obstacle, with openside Sven Coker making a real impact at the breakdown and emerging as a key cog in the Stowe machine.
Despite Solihullâ€™s efforts though it was to be Stowe who were next on the scoresheet, extending their lead to eighteen points at 28-10. It came from a wonderful piece of opportunism from their scrum half, who seized on loose ball at the tail of the lineout, from a Solihull throw, to streak away unopposed down the left hand side.
The only consolation for Solihull is that when they watch it back, they know they will never concede that try again. The tail of their lineout closed up to help form the maul before the ball had been won, leaving acres behind them. As the tail of the lineout you never forget that, which is why it will never happen to them again.
That try gave Stowe back the momentum to an extent but for twenty long minutes there was no further scoring. Both sides had their chances but defence was proving the big winner in this period.
Until Coker arrived on the scene in the 68th minute of the match, popping up wide on the right hand side to capitalise on yet more slick handling form these Stowe backs and sliding over in the right hand side.
It gave Stowe a 33-10 lead, and a victory that they more than deserved.
Solihull proved that they are a side that is a threat. They frustrated Stowe, heavily at times, and were dogged at the breakdown and in the tackle.
However Stowe just had too much quality. They were far from at their best, yet were still able to score five tries, that really is the sign of a top team. Oundle will be weary next weekend.
Full Time: Solihull 10-30 Stowe
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