RAMS returned to winning ways and finally ended their Bishop’s Stortford hoodoo with a dramatic 35-31 National One victory in a 10-try humdinger Old Bath Road.

Seb Reynolds’ side had lost all five of their previous games with the Hertfordshire side, but survived a remarkable comeback to secure a bonus-point triumph with a late penalty try.

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Director of Rugby Reynolds reflected: “Bishop’s Stortford were very good and while they sit 12th in the league, they’re a quality outfit who play some brilliant rugby.

“They came back into the game, but credit to our guys because that’s the first time we’ve beaten them and that’s always good for a team.

“Sometimes when you have these moments when you win it in the last 10 minutes, you can forget we were very good in the first half.”

The visitors made a sensational start as second row Will Palombo went over from close range in the fourth minute, George Cullen knocking over the extras.

Rams hit back swiftly, however, Stevie Bryant dotting down following a fine off-load from his centre partner, Connor Hayhow, before Jamie Guttridge barrelled over to put the hosts in front.

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Andrew Humberstone then also crossed the whitewash and maintained his perfect record from the tee to extend the advantage to 21-7.

Stortford replied when wing Chris Smith went over on the left, but Rams had the final say of the first half when a lovely inside ball sprung Conor Corrigan over for the bonus-point score.

The visitors started the second period superbly as they rattled in two tries inside the opening 10 minutes, Smith going over for his second before a Jake Morris effort was converted by Cullen to trim the gap to four points.

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Bishop’s hit the front with little more than 10 minutes remaining when full back Nick Hankin went over on the right, only for Rams to reply with a brilliant scrum which forced a penalty try.

Smith came close to snatching a dramatic late winner and his hat-trick for Stortford, but he knocked-on as he stretched for the line and Rams held on for a victory which keeps their title hopes alive.

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Commenting on the ebb and flow nature of another cracking afternoon at Old Bath Road, Reynolds said: “The game moved a little bit with the discipline. One of the disappointing elements of our game was that we were able to build control and a platform, but we weren’t able to sustain it.

“We let a good side come back at us on numerous occasions. If we’d managed to take the game by the scruff of the neck and continue our control and dominance it would have been a bit more comfortable.”

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Much of the pre-match talk had been about how Rams’ impressive pack maybe able to take advantage of an injury-hit opposition, but the hosts lost tight-head props James Baker and his replacement Cam Zeiss to injury inside the opening half-hour, albeit the former bravely returned to the fray.

And with the penalty count strongly favouring the away side, Reynolds admitted it was a game his players had done well to navigate.

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He commented: “A huge amount of credit must go to James and the whole front row.

“He took an injury early on, but if he hadn’t been able to come back on we wouldn’t have been able to scrummage. He couldn’t lift in the line-out so we had to deal with that and we had a lot of things going on in the game, but we got the win and played some very good rugby.

“These guys are intelligent boys. We play games in training where we put them in different situations and they also learn from adversity. We’ve lost to Bishop’s Stortford twice in the final play of the game, so you learn from the failure and come back and try and put it right and thankfully we did that.”

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Discussing the penalty count, he added: “It’s something you’ve got to deal with. We say to the boys ‘be positive in all you do’ and while I know there can be frustration and you might not agree with a decision, you just have to accept what it is and move on. In the end we did, because when we got back into the lead they had a couple of penalties and we held out.”

The victory saw Rams return to winning ways at home, having been beaten by title favourites Richmond and fellow Londoners Blackheath in their previous two outings.

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It leaves them eight points off top spot with eight games remaining, ahead of a trip to Cinderford next Saturday.

And Reynolds concluded: “It was disappointing to lose two home games because we love the support we get. The crowd were really cheering for us which was absolutely brilliant and we really thank them for that. It was nice to get back to winning ways.

“We’ll keep fighting (for the title). These players don’t know how to give up and they never will. They’ve had a fantastic season and while it might be a surprise to some people where we are, we’ve worked incredibly hard to be in this position and we will keep fighting. You never know what’s going to happen.

“But Cinderford are quality. They’re big boys who play some good rugby and have a good platform – it will be a real battle at the set-piece. We can’t look any further ahead than next week.”

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