1st XV - Report
Marlow dazzles and then fizzles out (Marlow 34 – 34 Bletchley)
Marlow stormed to a 31 - 12 lead through pace and brilliant back play, but complacency then let Bletchley in for a draw.
The game started under heavy grey skies, with a gusting wind which would make kicking and throwing-in difficult. It was a mild afternoon for October, but positively Siberian compared to the record temperature on the day of the previous week’s fixture at Reading. From the kick off, Marlow had a lineout at its 10m line and the pack drove to half-way before the ball was moved to the left, but it was dropped in midfield and a Bletchley player fly-hacked the ball forward and followed up to make the score 0 – 5 after just over a minute of play. Marlow was awarded a penalty from the restart, but outside-half Will Fulton’s kick drifted to the left of the posts. Marlow then launched the first of many outstanding attacking moves with full-back Colin Hudson getting into Bletchley’s 22 before the ball was switched to the right, Bletchley infringed and Fulton made no mistake with his second penalty kick, from the visitors’ 22m line, and the score was 3 - 5 after 7 minutes. Play was open for the next 15 minutes, and both sides missed penalty kicks before centre George Jafari ran to within 10 metres of Bletchley’s line. A penalty to Bletchley relieved the pressure temporarily, but breaks by scrum-half Jack Rider and flanker Ben Phillips led to a penalty 7 metres out and Fulton’s kick, after 27 minutes, put the hosts into the lead 6 - 5.
Two minutes later, Bletchley conceded a penalty, which was kicked to touch for a lineout just outside the visitors’ 22; and a clean catch allowed Rider to put Fulton away. His elusive running resulted in a fine individual try and extended the hosts’ lead to 11 – 5. Marlow now piled on the pressure, and when Bletchley dropped the ball in its own half, centre Matt Saunders broke away and drew the defence before passing to his supporting wing Miles Noble. Noble has pace, and at 6’ 4 inches, great strength too, so although he was tackled he was able to stretch his ball-carrying arm forward and ground the ball on the line. Fulton’s conversion attempt went just to the right of the posts so the score became 16 – 5 after 33 minutes. No. 8 Simon Boreham picked up from the back of a scrum to put Jafari away again, but the move broke down, and a penalty to Bletchley gave the visitors a rare opportunity to launch an attack; but the hosts came back and a kick ahead by Fulton caused chaos in Bletchley’s defence. The resulting penalty at the visitors’ 22 was converted by Fulton to extend the hosts’ lead to 19 – 5 after 39 minutes. Marlow was awarded a free kick in front of its posts and ran the ball out to its 22m line. There followed one of the best tries that I have ever seen, with a break out by Fulton; and then Jafari and Noble beat their men before Noble returned the compliment to Saunders by giving him the try-making pass – breath-taking stuff indeed! Fulton’s conversion extended Marlow’s lead to 26 – 5. The half-time whistle went after 42 minutes, with the home supporters impatient for the resumption of play, and the visitors fearing the worst and praying for deliverance.
However, Bletchley’s players had other ideas and, 6 minutes after the restart, from a scrum just inside Marlow’s 22, the visitors moved the ball to the left and sloppy defence allowed the inside centre to break through and score a try, with the straightforward conversion making the score 26 – 12. Marlow’s response was swift and clinical, with the hosts securing the ball from their own restart and Saunders was put away. The big centre ran strongly and directly and shrugged off a despairing tackle to score wide on the right and his try brought a bonus point and a score of 31 – 12 after 48 minutes. Two minutes later Richard Townsend, who had a fine game at prop, was replaced by Fe’ao Vunipola. Bletchley was awarded a penalty and had lineout 10 metres from the hosts’ try line, and then a scrum 5 metres out, in front of the posts. The pack drove and after some huffing and puffing claimed at try, which Mr Dummett confirmed and the score was 31 – 17 after 58 minutes. Mr Dummett was again in action 2 minutes later when, after a break involving Fulton, second-row Richard Pyke and hooker Matt Helling, he finally tired of Bletchley’s transgressions at the breakdown and awarded a penalty to Marlow at the visitors’ 22, and sent a Bletchley player to the bin. Fulton’s penalty kick was on target and the score moved to 34 – 17 after 60 minutes.
For the rest of the game the pattern of play was anarchic as Marlow seemed to abandon any structure or pattern and conceded penalty after penalty. Mr Dummett told me afterwards that at one stage he had awarded 8 consecutive penalties against Marlow. Bletchley sensed the opportunity and exploited Marlow’s generous casualness. After 68 minutes, from a lineout inside the hosts’ 22, the visitors’ outside half scored a try, with the conversion taking the score to 34 – 24. 6 minutes later a penalty from 35 metres further narrowed Marlow’s lead to 34 – 27, then Rodger got a yellow card and it was now the turn of the home supporters to fear the worst. This duly came after 84 minutes, when Bletchley drove from a 5m lineout and scored wide on the right. The conversion from the touchline inevitably sailed between the posts and the final whistle blew as soon as the touch judges’ flags were raised.
Marlow’s performance for the first 60 minutes contained passages of play of sheer brilliance, but it was never as controlled and uncompromising as it had been the week before at Reading. In contrast, for the final 20 minutes it was shambolic. At 31 – 12 down many teams would have quietly thrown in the towel, but the Bletchley players didn’t and in the end deserved at least a draw and will surely not be bothered by the threat of relegation this time around. Surprisingly, the result moves Marlow up to 2nd place with 22 points, 8 points behind Coney Hill and 1 point ahead of Salisbury, Maidenhead and Swindon. Elsewhere, Reading beat Cheltenham 38 – 20, and Maidenhead beat Witney 23 - 3. Next week Marlow is away at Cheltenham and then at home to Salisbury on 22nd October.
E. Smyth, M. Helling, R. Townsend (F. Vunipola), P. Martin, R. Pyke (M. Laurie), B. Phillips, H. Rodger, S. Boreham (C. Mitchell); J. Rider, W. Fulton, M. Noble, G. Jafari (Capt.) M. Saunders, C. Ellis, C. Hudson.
Scorers: - Tries: - Fulton, Noble, Saunders (2). Conversion: - Fulton. Penalties: - Fulton (4)
Yellow card:- Rodger
Referee: - Mr Paddy Dummett, Devon Society
Match Report by Gwyn Stone
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