Whether it was the unfamiliar turf of the top pitch, the effect of losing the toss for the first time this season or playing into the keen wind under cold leaden skies, Brackley made a slow start. The home side kicked off but that was their last attacking move of the opening 15 minutes. As Bletchley gathered the ball they launched an attack that rocked Brackley onto the back foot and pushed them deep into their own 22, allowing the visitors to camp inside the 5metre line and threatening to drive over the line. As the Blues faced wave after wave of attack it looked like only a matter of time before Bletchley would score. However, in a fine performance of solid, stone-wall defence Brackley refused to give way; first, soaking up the pressure and then slowly pushing their way back up-field, Brackley’s forwards gradually gained the upper hand and moved into Bletchley’s half.
Bletchley tried to set up a new attack by hoisting a high clearance that was collected by full back Tyrone Smith. Stretching his legs Tyrone set off up the middle of the park only to be tackled just beyond the Bletchley 10metre line. Rucking the ball out, Brackley initially moved it left, then back to the right and out to Louie Feiven on the wing who, sidestepping several players en route, ran some 30 metres to carry the ball over the line for Brackley’s initial try.
Although Connor Batty was unable to kick the conversion Brackley now displayed a new sense of confidence. With the restart Edd Russell collected the ball and carried it back inside the Bletchley half, from where began a dogged mid-field battle between both sets of forwards as Brackley again gradually edged forward. A quickly taken penalty saw Stephen Gibson make a spirited run down the wing, only for it to come to nothing as the ball was spilled and knocked-on. Shortly after another penalty to Brackley - awarded after Connor appeared to take yet another blow to his parent’s hopes of grand-children (it subsequently turned out to have been a knock to his stomach) - almost ended with Ben Doherty
making it across the line but again Bletchley’s defence held. By the time the half-time whistle was blown Brackley had spent almost all of the second quarter in their opponents’ half.
Bletchley started the second half featuring a strangely familiar substitute, as the world’s politest forward (in fact, quite possibly the world’s only polite forward) displayed his usual exemplary good manners and cheerfully stood in to help out the visitors as a replacement flanker – it could only be Angus. Bletchley also started the second half in much the same fashion that they had begun the first; by applying concerted pressure and pushing into Brackley’s 22 - but again failing to make it tell. As a result the third quarter settled into another prolonged battle in the middle of the park, with a series of scrums and rucks and the ball never straying far beyond either side’s 10metre line – until a turn-over set Tyrone Smith on a gazelle-like run, covering half the length of the pitch and down the right wing, to score Brackley’s second try.
With a ten-nil lead Brackley went straight back into the attack but they were halted when a penalty was awarded against Luke Hackett, following an outbreak of handbags over a disputed hand-off that saw both Luke and his Bletchley opponent sent to the sin-bin. But the Blues were not to be denied for long and Euan Prime scooped the ball on the left, chased through the defence and cantered over the line to touch down behind the posts. With a seemingly easy kick from just in front of the posts this was surely Connor’s birthday present conversion – no, this time his attempt bounced off the posts.
From the restart Brackley again went straight back onto the attack, but Bletchley were not going to go down without a serious fight and they put up a mighty defence of their line. First Lawrence looked certain to score, only to spill the ball just shy of the line and then Syd was blocked by a solid wall of defenders. Bletchley’s defensive efforts seemed justly rewarded when they won a free kick some 15 metres from their line but they chose to try to run it out of danger and never got beyond their own 22. The ball was turned over, Brackley pushed it out to the left and finally it was popped into the hands of matt gammon
- who carried it over for Brackley’s final try, taking the score to 20 – 0.
Bletchley, however, were far from being finished. They gathered their forces and used the restart to herald their most sustained and threatening period of attack since the game had begun. The final ten minutes saw the visitors throw everything against Brackley, winning first a scrum and then a penalty on the 5metre line, as they pushed right up to and almost over the home side’s line. Looking for chinks and weaknesses they hammered repeatedly into the home side’s defence before once again being slowly pushed back to the 22 just as the final whistle blew.
Post match celebrations were rightly muted by concerns for a member of the Bletchley team for whom the ambulance had to be called. All at Brackley RUFC and especially the U17s send their best wishes for his speedy recovery.