IN THEIR final pre-season friendly fixture, Stafford faced a tough test against Wrexham.
The Welshmen play their rugby in the rugged Swalec Division 2 North league, and they presented the home side with a difficult test in their final encounter before the cup game against Stoke next week.
The first quarter saw two very physical teams trading blows to assert dominance in a keenly contested game. Stafford looked good in the set pieces, and a dominate scrum was starting to unsettle the opposition.
The referee kept strict control over the warring sides and, after warning both captains for persistent minor infringements, the home side were reduced to 14 for the next transgression.
The referee had a busy period when a second yellow left Stafford with only 13 on the field. The visitors took full advantage of the extra men and despite some valiant defence, snatched two converted tries to open up a 0-14 lead prior to the half time whistle.
Stafford started the second half back to full strength and were straining at the leash to fight their way back into the game.
An early scrum saw Stafford destroying Wrexham, Oli Greatholder picking up the ball and brushing off Welsh hands to crash over for a try with Charlie Venables slotting the conversion through the posts. Wrexham continued to battle and an intercepted pass allowed them to restore a two try lead.
The referee reduced Stafford back to 14 for a further infringement, but this just spurred on the home side as they started to smash their way up the field.
The understrength home side launched a war of attrition against a solid visitors’ defence, but Ali Oxley was not to be denied as he ducked and squirmed across the line for Stafford’s second, Charlie Venables adding the conversion.
It was all Stafford for the remainder of the half and they continued to dominate in most areas of the game.
The home side backs had the final say as a period of sublime play saw slick hand ripping apart a desperate defence, James Atkinson stretching into the corner for the third Stafford try of the half.
The Cathedral held its breath as the difficult conversion was taken, but it flew agonisingly wide of the posts, giving victory to the visitors.
At full strength Stafford look a very dangerous team. There were some excellent individual performances, but particularly impressive was their dominance in the scrum and penetration of the back line.
Next game: Stoke at home, Saturday August 30, kick off 3pm.