RAMS RFC returned to winning ways in style to end a run of three defeats on the bounce as Stevie Bryant’s last gasp try earned a bonus point victory over Cinderford.
The legend – who had retired with more than 200 first-team caps at the end of last season – came off the bench to make it two tries in as many games to set the seal on a victory.
“I thought it was a great game for everyone watching,” said Rams director of rugby Seb Reynolds.
Rams RFC v Cinderford Pictures: Paul Clark
“You know what Cinderford bring and they were superb, they are a barometer in National One for where you know your game is at.
“They challenge you in the set-piece, in what they bring with the physicality, and you have to match that, or they’ll just eat you up.
“We did it well. there are guys who’ve been around the side for a while who are used to it – but the younger players who we asked to step up really showed something and that’s a big positive.”
Rams took an early lead as Mike Hoyt’s magic pass set in motion an Ed Hoadley try converted by Fraser Honey, Joe Winfield cutting the gap to 7-3 with a penalty before the break.
But the hosts struck twice in quick succession with Ben Atkins following up a sensational midfield break with a converted score before Charlie Robson added a blistering try-of-the-season contender for 19-3.
Cinderford hit back with scrum-half Tom Knight going over at the back of a monstrous maul, Winfield with the extras, but Bryant had the final word to send the home supporters into raptures.
Far earlier in their Rams’ careers were the back three of George Makepeace-Cubitt, Robson and Finn Matthews – all aged 21 or under – who all dazzled at times, although the DoR admitted he would have liked to see the precocious trio run the ball even more.
He continued: “I felt after Charlie scored we went a little conservative and were kicking the ball from the middle when we should have been going at them a bit more, but that’s not to take away from what they did – we set the tone, moved the ball well and looked threatening.
“We probably left a couple of scores out there in the first half, but Charlie’s try was exceptional, and he’s been threatening to do that for a long time. He’s been doing it for the Titans and I’m just pleased he did it.
“It’s one of the best tries I’ve seen in a while. You find these guys who you get excited about when they get the ball, and George was the same and he looked comfortable and assured.
“Then you’ve got Finn in his first game, and he was fantastic. I said in the pre-match, you step these guys up and they show a bit more, and Finn looked immediately sure at this level.”
Two more youngsters in the form of Atkins and Hoyt also caught the eye in the back row, while captain Robbie Stapley, James Baker – on his 402nd appearance – and Bryant showed there is still plenty in the tank for those at the ‘more experienced stage of their careers.’
Another of the older guard, Drew Humberstone, once again showed his versatility by playing at centre, full-back and fly-half in the second period.
Reynolds continued: “Ben and Mike are starting to show something and as a combination they were very good – we’ve wanted to stay with Mike and give him the opportunity because he’s a talented young player, but there are also guys in the Titans who are pushing and this is what you must have, real depth and competition for places.
“For James to do 80 minutes was superb and Robbie led the side beautifully. He’s also playing very well and it’s a massive compliment to him because he’s been doing it a long time – to evolve his game and develop his leadership is a tribute to him.
“It was great for Scuba – he’s reidentified himself as a try-scoring machine! When you get a couple of knocks to be able to pull Stevie off the bench in a tight game, you have great comfort because you know he’ll defend well and talk guys through it.
“And Drew is a lesson for anyone in having the confidence and comfortable mentality to just deal with any situation – he never gets stressed and was just first class.”
By Richard Ashton