A game of two halves...
...no really, it was.
Overall Score: High Wycombe 31 - Aylesbury 21
First Half: High Wycome 24 - Aylesbury 0
Second Half: High Wycombe 7 - Aylesbury 21
Still smarting from their poor performance against High Wycombe in the Plate semi-final a few months back, and on the back of some encouraging performances in recent weeks, the boys were in good spirits. We were missing our regular 10 and 12 combination, and a few boys were still coming back from injury/returning from illnesses, but otherwise all was well. One player's absence is another's opportunity, and opportunities have to be taken.
This is always a fixture we have looked forward to over the years, with two groups of boys who go at each other on the pitch, but have developed largely at the same pace over the years, and so contests are usually close run affairs - today was no different. High Wycombe came out the gate strongly, immediately camping in the Aylesbury half, dominating possession. Like the last time we played, High Wycombe were very fast off their line in defence, both at rucks and scrums, closing the down the space our backline had to operate in. At the breakdown, Aylesbury did not do enough to protect the ball, allowing High Wycombe to counter-ruck and get their hands on the ball time after time. After the second well worked High Wycombe try, Aylesbury's heads went down, and this allowed their opponents to run in two soft tries. It's worth mentioning here that the High Wycombe kicker has a fabulous boot on him, both out of hand and also off the tee, and was slotting them home with great aplomb.
At half-time the Aylesbury boys were down and feeling sorry for themselves. Unfortunately, feeling sorry for yourself doesn't win rugby matches, and the harsh reality of life as you get older is that you get out what you put in. There's no point in complaining about what the opposition are or are not doing and whether or not it is fair or unfair - do something about it. Play the game you want to play. Be so much better than them that it doesn't matter what they do. So, a few changes, a couple of arms around shoulders, a quiet word in the ear here and there and a verbal tub-thumping from the coaching team saw a very different Aylesbury come out the blocks. Playing with a bit more fire and determination, Aylesbury scored two excellent tries by Kristian, calmly converted by Ben Khurt. Aylesbury were piling on the pressure and the momentum of the game was changing with decisions starting to go their way. High Wycombe scored a converted try largely against the run of play, taking the score to 31-14, and then Aylesbury scored their best team try of the day, working through phases and seeing Charlie Key go in under the post to take the score to 31-21. In between times, Max Barrett powered himself over the High Wycombe line only to unfortunately drop/knock-on the ball inches above the ground as desperate defence swamped all over him. Aylesbury's more determined and robust work at the breakdown saw High Wycombe defending more narrowly than in the first half, creating spaces out wide. On many occasions Aylesbury had overlaps that on other days they would have naturally exploited, but today, saw knock-ons, forward passes, or passes going to ankles, thereby killing the move. Right at the death, Aylesbury turned over possession deep inside their own half and span it wide. The backs made good ground and broke over the gain-line, turning the High Wycombe defence. With Ben Parkinson out on the wing, on his 10 metre line, and moving up through the gears it just need the ball to stick and he'd have been away to score under the post. Agonisingly, the ball was knocked forward, and the referee blew for time.
So another close game, with both sides having opportunities to win it....