BRIDGNORTH were always going to be up against it as they took on a Stoke RFC side quite definitely on a high. Currently both Midlands and National Champions they are unbeaten in the league so far, scoring an average of over 50 points per match.
Bridgnorth, having lost to Stoke 41-3 at home and travelling without stars Ben Stafford, Will Stirk and Sam Muscott, faced their most difficult challenge for some time.
However with Danny Griffiths, Lewis Pitcher and Ryan Home drafted in by coach Richard Woods and Stefan Hildred moving to fly half, Bridgnorth gave as good as they got and the score of 19-0 did not really reflect the closeness of the game.
The main difference was Stoke took their chances better and had a player with the unusual name of Sam Christmas.
A bitingly cold wind made handling difficult and Stoke soon got on the board with a simple penalty from Christmas.
Hildred missed a difficult chance to level the score but a high tackle by Craig Thomas created a penalty under the posts, followed by another easy kick from stand-off Christmas, giving Stoke a nine-point lead at the break.
Almost from the restart, despite some desperate tackling from the All Blacks, Stoke scored an unconverted try on the right flank through that man Christmas again.
Bridgnorth rallied with Will Bidell showing his pace through the middle with a great burst. Only good defence by the home side saved a certain score.
The Stoke forwards pressurised the Bridgnorth line but a great clearance kick from skipper Gareth Bladen followed up by Ryan Home hassled the home full back.
In the ensuing melee Ryan Arneil received a yellow card and Stoke got out of jail with the kick.
Taking advantage of the extra man Stoke scored a forwards try on the left flank to go 19 in front.
Bridgnorth attacked strongly with Bladen making his lightning dashes and with the backline handling well.
Luke Stevens was prevented from scoring by a heroic last ditch tackle into touch.
Bladen was adjudged The Black Horse man of the match.
Next week Bridgnorth visit Tamworth for the re-arranged League match.
Still lying third in the league Bridgnorth should note that only six points separate the next seven teams in a congested table.