The first fifteen welcomed Phoenix to the Triangle field in what was a vital game at the foot of the table.
If Hungerford would have lost they would almost certainly have faced relegation, but they showed real determination and spirit to fight back from behind and snatch victory in the last minute.
The game started well for the home side as they instantly put Phoenix under pressure. Some good work from the forwards saw them camped on the visitors five metre line, but some good defence kept Hungerford at bay.
However, on ten minutes the deserved breakthrough came when Mark Boulton
superbly ripped the ball out of a tackle and carried well into the Phoenix twenty-two. This time Hungerford were a little more patient and some good carries from Jonny Tempest, Jon Bastable
and Andrew Mason drew the away defence in allowing Dan Holley
to powerfully crash over the line from the resulting quick ball.
With the conversion missed, Phoenix suddenly woke up and for the first time in the game put some real pressure on the home sides defence. A number of well-disciplined driving mauls allowed their powerful number eight to roll off the back and fall over the line to level the scores.
The game continued to see saw with momentum switching back to Hungerford. Good breaks from the backs including the returning Johan Van Wyk and Josh Rainey, gained the home side valuable territory. Once again quick ball from the ruck allowed the excellent Dan Holley
to smash round the corner and over the line.
However the first half, and indeed Phoenix, were not finished. With dominance in the scrum the Slough side again forced their way up field. A silly penalty allowed them to catch and drive a five metre lineout, resulting in another push over try from their pack. This time their prop claiming the score.
The second half did not start well for Hungerford as more silly penalties allowed Phoenix possession and territory once more. In a disastrous ten minute period the away side punished this lack of discipline to score two more well worked tries through their forward pack. With twenty minutes to play Phoenix led 20-10.
Then came the extraordinary Hungerford fight back. The home side always looked dangerous in open play, and were now trying to put a bit more width on the ball. Ben Shand
replaced the ever consistent Nick Blair
at scrum half, and his quick thinking and quick feet raised the tempo of the game. After a strong run through the middle of the park from Chris Woodruffe, Shand spotted an overlap on the blind side and put Jon Bastable
away to score in the corner.
Hungerford suddenly had their tails up and were soon back in the opposition twenty two. However, dogged defence from Phoenix prevented two tries from being scored, one being held up, and the other forcing a knock on. With time quickly running out, it looked the game was over especially when the away side won a scrum against the head and forced play up to the ten metre line.
With two minutes to play and Phoenix in control of possession the fly half attempted to move the ball wide only for Dom Taylor to rush up and intercept the pass and scorch round the full back to score under the posts. With celebrations still going on Dave Cree converted to give Hungerford the much needed bonus point win.
The win keeps Hungerford’s league status alive, with just four games remaining. The fight to avoid relegation is well and truly on!!
Man of the Match –
The Hungerford Lions also secured a valuable home win, beating Abingdon and gaining a bous point along the way. Well done boys!