But it was almost an early bath for the visitors after a very slow start in what threatened to be a tough group of challengers from across the Welsh border and starting with Burnham on Sea.
A slow start
Keynsham’s first outing was, to be frank, poor. Missing some of their key forwards through injury, Keynsham presented an open defence, coupled with poor co-ordination and a lack of commitment in the tackles, and were caught wide open by a more committed and on-form Burnham. First game out of the stocks and Keynsham never looked likely to challenge, and went down 3-0 to the same side they’d recently dominated in the County Championships at Wells.
‘v’ Burnham on Sea – Keynsham lose 3-0.
Finally off the mark
Next in the group, Keynsham faced ‘on-tour’ Welsh side Abertillery. Keynsham stepped up a gear and closed out the challenge almost from the start with a far more determined, thoughtful and considered match. Pleasing passing, movement of and off the ball, and great tackling from across the forwards gave Keynsham dominance in the centre of what was a really tight field of play.
Tries came through Tyler Molton
and, more significantly, Kraken of the forward-line Brynley McCarthy
, later to be crowned Most Improved Player at the Club Dinner that same night.
‘v’ Abertillery, Keynsham win 2-0.
Keynsham get motoring
By the third game, Keynsham were totally motoring, and drove straight through Swindon, scoring a huge 6-0 win. Some impressive tries throughout saw strong driving runs from Ben Whiteman
and Tyler, a cracking solo effort from full-back Ben Fleming and great opportunities snatched by Charlie Harris and Louie Powell. In all, Keynsham turned in a totally dominant performance against Swindon and ran out easy winners.
‘v’ Swindon, Keynsham win 6-0.
Forwards show their worth
With the Backs now well and truly warmed up, Bracknell offered a great opportunity for the Forwards to take their turn getting down and dirty, as the driving rain turned what was already a waterlogged pitch into a total mud bath.
The much tougher, more evenly matched game was a real crowd pleaser, with Bracknell setting the running for the game, taking an early lead after some good play. But Keynsham quickly took control in the centre of the pitch, through some fantastic in the rucks and scrums, Keynsham drove Bracknell back towards their own line time after time. Eventually, power and drive gave Keynsham the ground they needed to draw level with Bracknell. Ben Whiteman
ripped the ball clear from Bracknell and ran in a fantastic try to even the scores.
Finally, it was Ollie Ford who gave Keynsham the lead they needed to go through to the finals with a well deserved try down the left wing.
‘v’ Bracknell, Keynsham win 2-1.
Into the play-offs
As second placed in the league, Keynsham faced Ivybridge in the play-offs, and another tough but entertaining game followed. Ben Whiteman
opened the scoring giving Keynsham a first score advantage, and one that finally saw them through to the finals.
The game was marked by some really passionate play, and some fantastic and relentless tackling from Keynsham across the board. Simon Crew well deserves a mention for some crucial tackles down the left wing, as does Ollie Chambers, Jack Jordan, Ryan Down and Brynley McCarthy
made brought strength and drive into the Keynsham pack, winning back the ball from numerous Ivybridge scrums. Meanwhile Charlie Harris was on form, nipping around the scrum to pick up on his opposite scrum-half and intelligently close down a number of passing moves.
Ivybridge even the scores into the second half, but never really looked like causing Keynsham any more trouble as the second half progressed.
‘v’ Ivybridge, a draw 1-1, but with Keynsham progressing through to the finals as first try scorers.
An epic final of mud, sweat and tears!
Fellow finalists Burnham faced a completely different and totally fired-up Keynsham in the finals, and were hard pressed to make any ground at all on their motivated opponents.
From the start, Keynsham were keen for the ball, fighting every inch of the way, closing out danger players, moving the ball intelligently across the small field of play and dominating in the clinches.
The forwards had a hard time of it on both sides, penned in by the short and narrow pitch, and never really any more than an arm’s length from the nearest tackle. But that didn’t stop them trying. Ellie Linton was characteristically dangerous both in attack and defence throughout the game, while sharp little Dylan Quick was always going to make ground every time he got the ball.
The mud made movement sluggish and slow, and Keynsham took advantage to level some crunching tackles against Burnham, Tyler Molton
particularly fired-up and giving 110% across his entire field of play on the day.
Passion marked the entire game, and Keynsham never once fell short of it. Neither side were able to make any serious ground at all, as both teams’ kits turned a similar shade of ‘mud’.
Eventually, it was Burnham that snuck through with a hard fought try late in the second half, the only point that separated the two and what became the only score in the game.
A hard fought game, and major respect to both sides, epitomised by a roaring three cheers from both exhausted sides at the end of the game.
‘ v’ Burnham, Keynsham lost 1-0.