'Ensians produced a brilliant performance to be rewarded with a bonus-point victory against the side that has been vying with them for top spot in the League all season. Despite the game being disrupted first by an injury to the referee and then by the need to move the game to an adjoining pitch when a visiting player sustained a serious injury, the hosts scored five tries in an exhilarating match where their superior pace and fitness gradually wore down the much heavier opposition. It was also a remarkable achievement to put 37 points past a side who had conceded only 42 points in their previous eight League games this season.
From the kick-off the visitors put down a marker for their style of play with some powerful drives from their big pack, but on virtually the first occasion the home side managed to move the ball wide, centre Luke Cowdell spotted a gap and tore through to outpace the defence for a fine try near the posts with the conversion by full back Ben Hatton giving the hosts a 7 - 0 lead on 5 minutes.
Despite their weight advantage, Stocksbridge didn't have it all their own way in the scrums with the home front row of Tony Myers, Jim Dyson and Ross Nicholls putting in some hard graft up front. In the lineouts lock Ali Campbell and flanker Sam Featherstone generally managed to command their own ball, but pressure from the visiting back row didn't make life easy for scrum half Ieuan Cranswick.
With the visitors enjoying the bulk of possession, it was a case of their heavy forwards battering their way into the 'Ensians' half before they unleashed their backs. In mid-field centres Luke Cowdell and Nathan Rogers were putting in solid tackles with good support from the back row of Lee O'Donnell, Rob Arbuckle and Sam Featherstone. Although living off limited possession, 'Ensians looked dangerous every time they got the ball and there was a repeat performance from Luke Cowdell when slick inter-passing in the backs put him away again to score under the posts. Hatton added the extras for a 14 - 0 lead on 26 minutes. Winger Rob Lofthouse made a good break down the left flank, but the final pass was knocked on.
The visitors had been wide with a long range penalty, but when they were awarded another inside the 'Ensians half, their scrum half caught the home side napping by taking a quick tap and racing 40 metres through the defence for a good opportunist try. The conversion failed, taking the score to 14 - 5 on 31 minutes. A fine touch-line penalty by home full back Ben Hatton on 35 minutes was followed by a neat drop goal from the same player on 38 minutes to give the home side a more comfortable lead of 20 - 5 at the break.
In the second half the visitors continued to use their sizeable pack to set up rolling mauls, making good inroads into home territory. For the home side, props Tony Myers, replacement prop Ross Myers, hooker Jim Dyson and locks Toby Barltrop and Ali Campbell battled hard to stem the flow, but the pressure told and the visitors forced their way over for a converted try on 45 minutes to narrow the hosts' lead to 20 - 12. The visiting eight continued to put the home side under tremendous pressure, often being brought down only inches from the line, but the defensive effort from the home side was immense and they worked their way into visitors' territory with some good interplay between backs and forwards.
The pressure was now on Stocksbridge and a hurried clearance kick was charged down by tireless flanker Sam Featherstone who followed up to dive over for a crucial try on 55 minutes. The conversion failed, but the home side had now stretched their lead to 25 - 12. There was then a break in play when the referee had to have treatment for a leg injury and to his credit, despite being in obvious pain, he carried on for the rest of the match. Play continued in the same vein with the visitors battling away through their pack and the home side always looking dangerous with their lively handling and running.
The hosts withstood further onslaughts from the visiting pack when one of their players suffered a neck injury. As he could not be moved, the referee sensibly moved the game onto the adjoining pitch for the final fifteen minutes. This is where, despite having only limited possession, 'Ensians really tore into their opponents both in attack and defence. Flanker Lee O'Donnell snapped up a ball around halfway and set off on a powerful weaving run to the line for an excellent try with Hatton's conversion stretching the gap to 32 - 12 on 71 minutes.
Now with their tails up, 'Ensians moved the ball wide for Luke Cowdell to chip over and gather to score his superb hat-trick try in the corner. Scrum half Ieuan Cranswick then put winger Declan Jackson away up the right touchline, but from some distance away the referee adjudged the pass forward and the final whistle went a minute later leaving the final score 37 - 12 to the home side.
This was a very impressive performance from 'Ensians against a side which was hitherto unbeaten in the League. The result was built on a foundation of ferocious defence, enterprising play by both forwards and backs and the tremendous spirit which exists within this young squad.
The good news from Stocksbridge was that their injured player was discharged from hospital on Saturday night with the injury not as serious as was first feared.