CHAMPION backed Stoke travelled to Old Georgians looking to gain some revenge for a last minute defeat at the hands of their opponents at the start of the season, writes CHRIS PRITCHARD.

Despite Simon Appleby’s first half hat-trick it was not enough to prevent defeat at the hands of Old Georgians who came out on top with a rather flattering score line on an afternoon which saw 76 points and 12 tries.

The game started great for the visitors with two early tries inside 10 minutes to give them a healthy advantage, with a penalty for Old Georgians sandwiched between the opening tries from Appleby.

The first coming after Old Georgians were penalised for being offside, Kurtis Eagle sent the ball into the home side 22 and with Tom Johnson claiming the line-out, Appleby peeled off the back and dived in for the first of his four tries.

The hosts soon narrowed the gap after some handling errors from both sides saw ‘Stoke themselves penalised for offside and the kick was slotted by the hosts fly half.

Stoke continued to apply the early pressure with the second try coming soon after as Kurtis Eagle caused the hosts trouble in the corner with a great kick downfield meaning they could only clear the ball off the field.

One strength this season has been Stoke set play and again the line-out came up trumps, with another drive set up, the hosts unable to stop the power of the Stoke pack and Appleby had his second, with a little help from Stephen Ansell. Converted by Eagle, Stoke had a 12-3 lead.

The hosts hit back with two tries of their own, the first coming after Stoke gave away a penalty at the breakdown, which Old Georgians took quickly and profited with hands through the back line and dived in the corner.

The second came after a number of foiled attempts by some great defence from the visitors, first Charlie Eaves and Matt Mairs managing to drag the Old Georgians wing into touch, and George Hemmings with a try saver on the line, though eventually quick recycling saw the hosts score from the next phase to take the advantage with the successful conversion.

The hosts almost added to their total from the restart as they were able gather the loose ball, but strong defence kept them at bay.

Stoke turned over the ball at the line-out but were then penalised for blocking. The hosts chose to take the scrum and were eventually increasing their lead after missed tackles allowed what would be one of a few easy scores for Old Georgians.

With the half drawing to a close Stoke replied immediately, Appleby completing a first half hat-trick, though not before Kieron Parker tried himself to close the gap.

Despite being held up on the line, Appleby picked from the base of the resulting scrum and bulldozed himself over the line barging 2 Old Georgians defenders out of the way on his way to scoring. Unconverted the half ended with Stoke trailed 22-17.

The second half, almost a reverse of the first half, saw the home side coming out firing and the visitors end the game strong, with a further six tries and Stoke secured a well deserved bonus point.

It was the hosts who were the next on the scoreboard as despite Stoke having the majority of possession and territory in the opening stages of the half, a strip from Old Georgians saw a kick in behind broken Stoke defence stopped by George Hemmings for a restart in the 22.

Slow chase and a number of offloads saw the hosts secure their bonus point try in the corner, shortly followed by their 5th try after a great solo effort from the Old Georgians fly half beat a number of Stoke defenders to dive neatly under the posts to give the hosts a 34-17 lead.

A great first half performance from ‘Stoke was rapidly being undone as the hosts continued to add numbers to their side of the scoreboard, with another try coming courtesy of some more slick offloading and a well directed chip in behind the ‘Stoke line bouncing kindly for the hosts sixth try.

Strong words from Captain Rhyan Harmon, seemed to do the trick, as Stoke began playing like the side they were in the 1st half, with two further scores coming their way.

The first securing the bonus point coming from the restart, again the line out coming up trumps, this time Tim Bayes becoming a bulldozer himself to brush aside the home side defence.

The conversion unsuccessful from the boot of Kurtis Eagle which had been rather cold throughout the afternoon. Typically and probably fittingly It was Appleby who finished off Stoke scoring, though not before a great break from their own 22 by Matt Mairs, who himself was able to brush aside a number of Old Georgian defenders before being stopped over halfway, Will Buckingham’s chip over the top gathered by Stephen Ansell and Stoke rewarded with a penalty.

The backs knowing full well what was coming from the resulting line-out, may as well have purchased tickets to spectate the next moments, as yep, you guessed it, a drive from the line-out and Appleby coming up trumps again to narrow the gap. It was though the home side who had the final say in the game.

With a successful penalty converted in the hope of preventing Stoke leaving with any further bonus points which were in touching distance with another try, they then added their seventh try of the game, with quick play from a penalty they were in at the corner to complete the scoring.

Despite the home side looking to hit the 50 point mark, Stoke didn’t allow the walls to be breached any further in the last few moments and left wondering what could have been with a bit more luck, and having given away some soft tries at the start of the second half.

Old Georgians keep the pressure on at the top of the league while Stoke stay eighth in London South West Three with a home tie against struggling Gosport and Fareham on Saturday, where they will be expected to get back to winning ways and three further very winnable matches to come between now and the end of the season.