Chance to make up ground on top four
This weekend provides the opportunity to make up some ground in the league as four of the sides above them are playing each other, but to do so they will have to overcome St Ives at the Chicken Shack, where Saints have had little success in the past.
The Bulls are in desperate need of points to avoid relegation and their big pack and close driving game will make life difficult for Saints, who need to refocus and rediscover their winning form.
Midlands 3 East (South)
Rugby St Andrews 12
Stockwood Park 19
Despite struggling for quality set-piece possession Saints could have been victorious had they been more precise in their finishing.
Stockwood are pushing hard for promotion and are enjoying a good run with a powerful pack and a well-drilled off-loading game, but Saints should be disappointed that, once again, they failed to turn pressure into points. Possession was lost too frequently in key areas or needless penalties conceded when the situation demanded cool heads and patience.
The Luton side began at a blistering pace, dominating territory and possession for the first ten minutes, by which time beleaguered Saints had conceded two simple penalties. Fortunately, the rush defence of the back division was in good order and forced a number of errors, providing opportunities to counter attack.
The lead was gained with a superbly constructed try. Jamie Clynes broke across field. Two dummy runners pulled in the cover before he floated a pass to the flying Ryan Taylor, who drew the last defender for Tom Oglethorpe to dot down.
The kick made it 7-6 but all the good work was undone by conceding a penalty from the restart and Stockwood were ahead again.
Saints had the better of the remainder of the half even though they were being nudged back in the scrums and the line out was misfiring. The visitors were now conceding penalties which were just about within kicking range but Saints opted for attacking lineouts.
With no guarantee of success in this area, the shots at goal may have been a better option as Saints failed to capitalise on any of these hard won positions.
Stockwood were keen to re-establish themselves and again hit Saints with their first try almost straight from the restart. The conversion was successful.
The balance of power then swung away from them. A series of powerful forward drives established an attacking platform. Once again the backs made inroads but handling errors brought promising attacks to a premature end. On the hour the pack laid siege to Stockwood’s line. After several close calls Mark Dunkley crashed over next to the posts just as the unsighted referee whistled to penalise Stockwood’s centre for punching on the other side of the rolling maul.
The yellow card was a formality. With tries needed the simple penalty shot was eschewed and some sort of justice was done when Grant Taylor went over from the tap penalty.
Saints continued to push for further points but they lacked the precision to add to their tally and Stockwood escaped with the win that keeps them in the hunt for promotion.
There was the consolation of a losing bonus point and the fact that they outscored their opponents by two tries to one, but equally there must be concern about the penalty count and unforced errors that effectively cost them the game.