Gosford 2nd XV overcome every obstacle to topple Aylesbury
In what proved to be the most physical game of the year Raf Hambleton shines at fullback
The last time these two sides met Aylesbury were top of the league and Gosford second. Gosford would eventually go on to grind out a very tough win, giving Aylesbury their first loss of the season and moving Gosford to top of the league in the BBO4N where they’ve stayed since. If the last time these two met was anything to go by, Gosford would need to dig deep and muster up a strong defence and prepare for a very physical affair.
With the Gosford 1st XV hampered by injuries and some of the 2nd XV regulars MIA through injury, holiday and recent family additions (congrats Richard Green) the side that went out would be very different to that which took to the field against Oxford 2nd XV. Notably Matt ‘Sicknote’ Williams and Jason Beesley would join Mark Diamond in the front row and would be needed to do a full 80 each, Ed Parker would make his second appearance for the season after buying new boots, Chris Boyd would come out of retirement and put on a black shirt for the first time in a number of years and Jeremy Agha would make his all black debut at just 17 years of age on the wing. These additions combined with some players playing out of their usual position meant that it was always going to be a very tall ask for the All Blacks.
Aylesbury would be playing the game with strong passion after a recent club bereavement during the week meant the game would be started with a minutes silence seeing both Gosford 1’s and 2’s and Aylesbury 1’s and 3’s uniform together to show their respect.
With referee Granville Williams getting the game underway Gosford would win the toss, and elect to receive, with the absence of Sam Durley and Connor Sadler who have both been key in the aerial battles this year it would be Dan Talbot who would look to fill this void, with the first kick pitched high, Talbot would run on to it and have the ball go straight through his arms for a knock on awarding Aylesbury a scrum on the Gosford 30. With an untested forward combo this first scrum would be a great test for the All Blacks who through Green and Tom Bates had dominated this phase of the game. Engage called the Aylesbury pack which was much bigger went to get a strong drive on the All Blacks but didn’t really go anywhere, winning the ball regardless they released it to their back line who would bash it up through their powerful centres. Taking it into contact Marc Grant’s tackle would see the ball come loose and give Gosford a chance to brief and their own scrum, ball won it was cleared by Rob Eynon at fly half and chased hard by centres Danny Rae and Grant.
The Aylesbury fullback was quick to run it up, but without much real guidance in his running he was tackled on the half way by Rae and with the help of Grant and Tim Davis the ball would be slowed right down giving Aylesbury no option but to use their powerful forwards to try and blast their way up the pitch. Blast they did but the Gosford defence was good, Chris Good who was nursing a pretty serious cold was dismissing his lurgy in order to tackle these Aylesbury giants and like a Canadian lumberjack chopping giant redwoods he made swift work of them and would eventually give Gosford another scrum for a knock on.
The first real break for Gosford would come around 5 minutes, after Aylesbury gave away a penalty a kick to the corner allowed Gosford a good shot at a catch and drive maul, however with the jump miss timed, Davis would pounce on the loose and a few forward pick and goes were put in to try and make the 10 metres needed. Aylesbury would overturn this though and kick to clear their lines, ball recovered by Grant in the centre, the veteran player would run it back hard, connecting up with his fellow centre, who would release Jeremy in the corner, one more pass to Raf Hambleton who had looped round, left the quick footed full back one job of shrugging of his man and diving over the line for Gosford’s first try. With Talbot missing the extras the score was 5 – 0 and the All Blacks were relishing having drawn blood first.
Aylesbury quick to get things moving again pitched the ball in the same area for the restart, this time Talbot caught it, but would lose control of the ball in the tackle, giving Aylesbury another scrum just inside the Gosford half. With the All Black scrum once again not giving anything, the Aylesbury back line would get the ball and would again run it through their centre pairing who were now targeting fly half Eynon. With Eynon doing enough to slow the player down, flanker Christoph Houghton would come in and chop the feet of the driving Aylesbury back and through Matt William’s strong rucking would slow the ball down again.
Once again Aylesbury would look to exploit their powerful runners in particular their number 8 who loved to run with his elbows high, however he was no match for second row Rhys Sadler who would bundle him to the floor. The ball was recycled back quickly though and through a missed tackle Aylesbury were only 5 metres from scoring, it would be Raf who would save the All Blacks conceding through an excellent tackle that would see the ball spilled and a Gosford scrum. The All Blacks would eventually clear their lines and would be once again looking to score once more.
They’d do this again through some great hands by the backs, a couple of powerful forward runs from Dimond and Davies had drawn in all the Aylesbury pack, Rich Robbins would release the ball to Eynon who’d jink his first man before delaying his pass to Grant, Grant 10 metres out would pick up the gas and drive for the line with an Aylesbury back clinging to his shirt he was slowed down but nothing was going to stop him as he’d slam down Gosford’s second, extras missed again Gosford lead by 10 – 0.
Needing a stronger restart Gosford were looking to build on their momentum but even with the ball caught this time the first breakdown would see Aylesbury awarded a penalty for being over the ball, Aylesbury’s kick for the corner was good and they’d be about 20 metres out, quick line out taken by the A’s, they would once again use their centre smasher who would come close to breaking Rae but the plucky All Black would slow him down, with no forward to slow the release however, the A’s had all to simple of a job as to pop to their big runner who would avoid 2 tackles and score under the posts, points converted Gosford now led 10 – 7.
The next 20 minutes would be very physical both Houghton and Rhys Sadler would have to exit the game for head injuries (both thankfully all ok) seeing Ed Parker join in the fun at second row and Chris Boyd at back row. Boyd who has been absence from the game for a few years was keen to make-up for lost time though and his first hit was a beauty, slamming down his Aylesbury number the big crunch would really fire the All Blacks up and would lead to them camping in the A’s 22 for s number of phases, 1,2,3 penalties all in the 22 would see Gosford march forward again and again, Jason Beesley showing his strength would see himself short of the line by meters, but eventually a tap to Talbot who would spot the back in the defensive line and run through him to score Gosford’s third, with the conversion between the posts the half time score stood 17 – 5.
At this point the All Blacks knew the next try would be crucial, not only would it be a bonus point, but it would be the try that would act as a killer blow to the A’s, with no more subs the 15 on the pitch would have to see it out, stick together and grind out a tough game.
Rich Robbins getting the game underway would pitch his kick to the A’s 9, the small scrum-half had proved a big problem for the All Blacks in the first half, weighing about 7 stone he was swift, agile and seemingly impossible to tackle. What was not so good for him on this restart however was his dropped ball, a Gosford scrum on the A’s 35 would be a great platform to build on, engage called the All Blacks pack would march forward and eventually picked up by Talbot at 8, the All Black backrow would drive his way down the field with the help of Boyd and Davies, As he went to ground the ball was quickly released by Robbins, who would spot the overlap, Raf once again holding his line, he’d pop to Jeremy who would use his pace to go round the A’s winger and score his first ever All Blacks try and secure a bonus point, conversion missed Gosford were now leading 22 – 7 and looking to ‘turn the screw’ on this Aylesbury side that was now splintering.
Gosford would soon be on the attack again this time through Ed Parker, the tall second row showed he’d lost none of his flair as he delivered a great offload to Boyd, bashing his way up the pitch Boyd would make great ground before being help up deep in the A’s half, with forward now all on the ball, some more pick and goes were used to gain ground, camped in the Aylesbury 5 metre zone, the option was simple pass to Eynon or anyone of the backs and let them walk it over, however these are forwards who can see the try line and not just any forwards, props… Dimond who only a few weeks previously did the same move for Witney to score against Gosford would now do it against Aylesbury, the 50 year old youth bulldozed his way over the line to slam down a really assertive try and one that would ruin any potential for Aylesbury to return, with Talbot’s conversion the score was now 29 – 7.
Aylesbury however were not giving up and they continued to keep driving hard and they’d be rewarded Raf had already managed a couple of try saving tackles, Eynon had held one up, Rae had tackled pretty much everything including a few Gosford players, but the big A’s 8 would be too much and would score an unconverted try to give Aylesbury a sniff of a comeback 29 – 12.
However just as quickly as those points were put on the board, were they made pointless as Gosford were once more on the march again and a perfect timed pass by Rich Robbins would see Talbot over the line for his second and another conversion 36 – 12. The final 10 minutes would be all about maintaining this performance and finishing it strongly, well Aylesbury thought the same and through a confused lineout situation they would take a ‘quick’ line out to a forward running at pace who’d get a 20 metre green light to score a 3rd for Aylesbury, conversion missed, 36 – 17.
It was time for Gosford to turn up the heat and make amends for this lineout calamity and once again it would come from a Gosford scrum, the All Blacks pack who by now were overturning the ball, driving their own 10 metres were marching once more, with Talbot picking at 8, Aylesbury seemed to have abandoned their winger and with Rich Robbins running the support line a simple pass would see the scrum half dove over for Gosford’s 7th, conversion scored score was now 43 – 17.
With only a few more minutes on the clock, Gosford would get one more chance and again it would be Talbot to score his third after a few great pass phases by Eynon and Robbins to set him up, conversion missed final score was 48 – 17 and would see Gosford now win 7 on the bounce in their longest winning streak for 5 years. All in all the score line doesn’t do Aylesbury justice who were one of the most physical and forthcoming teams the All Blacks had played against this year.
Gosford’s man of the match was a hotly contested affair, with so many honourable mentions every player on the pitch contributed more than they’ve ever done, but it goes to Raf Hambleton who saved the All Blacks more times that I can count, ran so many balls back down the A’s throats and got the funbus rolling with the first score.
The All Blacks next match is away to second in the league Buckingham who will be looking for revenge after Gosford beat them at the Brake.