Hard fought wins over Staines and the once mighty Bracknell have continued our fantastic early season form and kept our place at 4th in the league. But it has been far from easy pickings. In an emotional couple of weeks for the club, the boys showed real character and self-belief to earn these last 10 points.
First item on the agenda - an away trip to sunny Staines. The Middlesex club has always been a very physical side. Last year, they punished us both home and away, brushing aside us forwards with a brutal contempt. We knew they had lost a few players but they still had the notorious Junior Harrison in their ranks. The biggest man in the league - cousin to Strictly star Audley…who apparently boxes as well.
We started the game poorly – perhaps a hangover from the Tonbridge Juddians beating the week before. The team was not gelling and we turned the ball over far too many times.
Staines were happy to capitalise on our mistakes and accomplished Fly-half Michael Forster kicked two penalties to establish an early lead. As we continued to misfire, Centre Wilmott crashed over to pile on the misery. We offered very little in a disappointing first half and went into the break 11-0 down.
Despite a Graham Henry-style ‘Rark Up’ from Jon, the second half started abysmally. Smashed off a scrum, flustered errors at lineouts, uncharacteristic knock-ons…it was as if we hadn’t played before! And a further score from Backrow West really put us under pressure.
16-0 behind, we had a mountain to climb. We finally came round from our daze and started to string phases together. Unbelievably, we only scored our first points after 69 minutes, Chennells crossing the line following an excellent driving lineout. Straight from the kick off, Newton was put into space by Ben Criddle and finished with aplomb. Suddenly, it was 16-14 and the comeback was on.
|Heading to the lineout against Bracknell|
Two further penalties from the home side re-established their lead, but by this time we had the bit well and truly gripped between our teeth. We must give credit to fitness specialist Steve Bumstead – as we grew and grew in confidence, Staines faded quickly. The final result was an inevitable formality…but slippery-healed Newton chose to wait until the final play of the game to dance under the posts to wrap up a breath-taking win!
But celebrations were cut short. During the week, club legend Malcolm Rose tragically passed away. He had been a corner stone of the club for many years and his legacy lives on through his son Chris.
We were determined to honour Malcolm’s memory with a strong performance. A well-observed minute silence focused our thoughts.
It did not start particularly well. Despite a solid and dominant start, the visitors took the lead through a penalty. We also lost Winger Ben Selwyn to a torn hamstring.
But, we were the stronger side throughout. A stable scrum gave us an excellent platform and Papa Bear was on hand to take a pop from Newton to cross the line. Another flowing move quickly resulted in Sam ‘The New Gas Man’ Clapham dived over in the corner. A further score from the Mateai Express gave us an impressive 19-6 lead at half time.
The scoreline did not do justice to the visiting side. They were a strong a powerful side. But their discipline cost them dearly. We punished their two yellow cards with further a try and penalty from Chennells, and a spectacular drop goal from Papa Bear.
The game ended on a sour note - Radders given a straight red for a left-hook, which would have rocked David Haye. Iit was clear and blatant and can’t be defended. But there is no way Nick would have reacted iin such a way without provocation.
Bracknell clawed back a consolation try but the final score was 32-18. Another bonus point win on an emotionally charged day for the club.
We now have a weekend off and a much needed opportunity to recuperate. So far, this season has been fast and furious but somewhere we’re keeping up with the pace!