AEI returned to winning ways with an emphatic home victory against a bare 15 man opposition. From the outset AEI dominated proceedings and finished the match with the lion’s share of both territory and possession. The home side had the upper hand in almost all aspects of the game and, on the back of a strong forward performance characterised by prop Jamie Barlow’s man of the match winning hat-trick, were willing to run at a Stoke Old Boys defence unable to cope with the pace of the backs.
Tries came at regular intervals with John Stretton (3), Gareth Bott (2), Dan Curtis, Jonathan Jenkins and Paul Eaton all benefiting from a much improved display all round. The advantage held over the visitors was typified by a cameo appearance from Joe Bott who scored a fine solo try from a kick off when he caught the ball on his 22, chased his own downfield kick and beat the defence to touch down; unfortunately, having expended so much effort to race 80 metres, he was unable to convert from just right of the posts.
At half time, with the game all but over, AEI were able to make 6 changes without interrupting the flow of points. To their credit Stoke Old Boys contested for the full 80 minutes and were able to register a drop goal from a rare foray into the AEI 22.
With February’s fixtures being disrupted by the 6 Nations, the AEI must try to build on this confidence-boosting performance to ensure the season does not peter out in the same way that 2011 did.