2nd XV grind out crucial win
Promotion now a real possibility
With a disappointing loss away to Oxford Quins earlier in the season, coach Andy Blake was only concerned about this squad putting in a performance to level the scores, the points edging toward promotion meant nothing before this game.
A shuffle in the pack with Alexi Sale returning from a long term wrist injury at hooker, dan waite also back from time out at prop, Mark Jeffers on a stag do so Harry Mason-Cook replacing him at 2nd row and Darren Parker winning the 8 shirt after a good performance last week.
Long time servant of ARFC utility back Mike Evans stepping in for Dave Payne at Scrum half and Dan O'Donnell replaced by the return Alex McDonald sum up the changes from the team sheet the week previous.
ARFC welcomed Phil Featherstone as a referee from the London leagues to officiate his first game at Ostlers Field through Bucks Referees Society. Kicked off right on time - 3pm. The usual cross wind at ARFC was blowing from the West to East and was sure to be used by both teams throughout the game.
Quinn started the better of the two teams and got a quick score on the board but sloppy kicking from in front of the posts denied the extras. Ays responded quickly and levelled the score with a well worked move out to the right where Jonny Burgess clearly knocked on but gathered the rebound in a flash such that the referee did not see before going over to score. Nicky Mercer missed the conversion.
Quins bounced back immediately with Ays not gathering the kick off, turning over possession and Quins finding the white wash easily. Quins missed the difficult conversion directly in to the wind.
The frantic pendulum of scoring stopped momentarily whilst both teams failed to string any sort of phased play together and the forward went head to head, round the fringes and competed strongly at the breakdown with both sides inviting the referees whistle for infringements. Quins got themselves on to Ays 22m line when again the penalty count let the home team down in front of the posts. This time Quins kicker slotted for the additional points.
Ays started to get parity in the scrum with the referee identifying Quins loosehead had not not driving straight. This gave dan waite the platform to dominate his opposite number and as a result, Mike Evans better ball at the back. With this platform Ays moved back in the Quins territory and the backs whipping the ball out wide causing Quins all sorts of problems. Alex McDonald came in to the back line on one of these occasions and successfully beat the first defender to round the full back and score out left. Nicky Mercer missing the conversion. Ays were pressuring hard and won a penalty just before half time, however Nicky wishes he had put on his dayglo boots for the warm up.
HT 10 - 13
The second half was again dominated by forwards play despite Ays half time talk to move the ball out wide except for one occasion 17 minutes in where Ays found some space in the back line with the final pass from Nicky Mercer leaving winger Ollie Sayer with three defenders to beat as well as the touchline. Staying strong he handed off the first, and second and carried the third over the line with him to put Ays in the lead for the first time in the match. One of the better tries scored a Ostlers Field. Nicky Mercer missed the conversion to the right of the posts.
Both teams were giving it their all and neither missing tackles another period of stale mate until a Quins infringment gave Ays the opportunity to add enough points from a penalty to give them a 1 score lead - Nicky Mercer found his boots and slotted between the sticks.
Quins upped the pace and retained possession well, helped by Ays repeated infringements and the wind they were camped in Ays half for the remainder of the game. Ays line speed in defence, organisation and persistence with first time tackles kept the visitors out for a good 15 minutes.
Man of the Match: Martyn Rylands