Play-off heartache for Stourbridge

Dudley News: Sam Baker struggles to hide his disappointment at Saxons’ play-off defeat. Sam Baker struggles to hide his disappointment at Saxons’ play-off defeat.

AFTER the agony of Stourbridge’s dramatic last-gasp play-off defeat director of rugby Neil Mitchell says he is determined to go one better next season.

A place in National Division One was seconds away when number eight Rob Smith crashed through a desperate home defence to score under the posts and Joe Govett coolly landed the conversion to give Worthing Raiders a 28-26 play-off win.

It was a heartbreaking setback for Mitchell as his Saxons missed out on promotion by the narrowest of margins having squandered a 19-point lead midway through the season as they were pipped for the National Division Two North title by Hull Ionians.

“It all comes down to such narrow margins,” said Mitchell. “In the past six seasons our points tally would have been enough to get us up but having made such a good start, winning the first 18 games, just emphasises the disappointment around the club and for myself included.

“It’s enormously disappointing. When the final whistle went it was so quiet, even the Worthing players didn’t seem to want to speak. I’ve not experienced anything like it to concede the try in the 82nd minute.

“It was all or nothing but having set the bar so high earlier in the season the expectations were high — anything less than perfection and people start saying ‘what’s going on?’ It’s such a shame we didn’t get what we should have achieved.

“Every league gets tougher and tougher by the year and it’s very competitive for players from the Midlands pool with the likes of ourselves, Dudley Kingswinford and Bromsgrove. If I’m staying for next year promotion has to be the aspiration.

“But the members choose the direction Stourbridge goes in. It’s frustrating we didn’t get to a higher level and there have got to be aspirations. I’ve been here for nine years I want to be here next year with the blessing of the club’s desire to move forward.

“This club and its facilities lends itself to National One rugby and that’s where I want to be.”

The lead changed hands no fewer than seven times, Jamie Hearn opened the scoring with a well-struck penalty then Worthing led 7-3 after Jack Maslen’s try. And so it continued with Nathan Bressington and Will Hurrell crossing the tryline, Hearn adding two conversions and four penalties for Saxons, but Govett and Scott Barlow doing likewise for the visitors before Smith’s late intervention.

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