With Twenty Eight Players and Team Manager Iain Scott away on tour in Westport Co Mayo, Dictator of Rugby Ali Driver was left with sole responsibility for the final Berks/Bucks and Oxon Division 5 clash.
Although the league title was won up before kick-off, The Dictator made it clear to the Rhinos at the start that they were here to win the game for their absent captain Dave Osborne, and to confirm their status as the best squad in the division by some distance. And that’s exactly what they did, with a clinical display of running rugby which produced 8 tries, many of which would have graced a much higher level.
The Rhinos got off to a steady start with a 30 metre penalty from the latest product of the Rhinos youth development programme, and fly half for the day, Nick Brooks, and once they had got their tackling heads on, tries started to flow at regular intervals. The first was created by the hugely improved Wayne Quintyn who cut inside from the left wing on a surging diagonal run, before offloading in the tackle, with the ball then passing swiftly down the line for Greg Fanshaw to finish clinically in the right corner.
Soon after, a great run by Brooks saw him stopped just short of the line by a superb Harwell tackle, but swift hands and a great offload by Peter Bulteel, resulted in full-back Ian Gibson scoring in the same corner. Next up was Brooks himself, with an excellent solo effort from the 22, stepping inside and outpacing the cover to score under the posts and converting his own try.
The pressure from the Rhinos was relentless and the next person to cut though the Harwell defence was centre Phil White who carved through the middle from just outside his own 22, showing a remarkable turn of pace for a midget and then backed it up with a superb kick to the left corner. From the ensuing line-out Rhinos trainee Tom Tully caused all sorts of problems for the Harwell defence as he drove infield before the ball came to No 8 Kevin Rackley. The first team coach, who was on day-release, took his chance superbly for one so clearly out of condition, leaving several defenders in his wake as he rampaged over under the posts from fully 10 metres. The groan from the crowd and the cry of “we’ll never hear the end of it” could surely be heard by the rest of the Rhinos across the sea in Ireland. Brooks duly converted and the Rhinos found themselves a comfortable 27-0 up at half-time.
The only downside of the first half were a couple of injuries to key players who were expected to feature in the crucial cup semi-final coming on Wednesday, the rejuvenated hooker Glyn Blakemore and excellent new recruit in the centre Peter Bulteel. Blakemore was replaced by the evergreen Dave Parish just before half-time and Nick Robbins-Cherry came on for Bulteel soon after.
Not that these changes made any difference to the pattern of the game, because it wasn’t long before another great tip-toeing run down the right touch line by Fanshaw, led to yet another catch and drive from Tully who wasn’t going to be stopped this time, with Brooks adding the points.
There then followed the Rhinos only really disappointing moment of the game, when at a line-out on the Rhinos line, they bizarrely managed to allow the smallest member of the Harwell pack to catch the ball in the middle of the line-out without even jumping and walk over completely unattended. Mark Richards’ impersonation of a matador at scrum-half was impeccable.
With the ridicule from the touch-line ringing in their ears, the old gits hit straight back with an excellent break from Diego Barrow soon after the kick-off which led to Brooks dancing his way over under the posts and converting once again. This was Barrow’s last contribution as he was replaced by “back from the dead” Dave Swan. Welcome back Freddie!
The final 5 minutes or so of the game belonged to replacement full-back Robbins-Cherry who scored two excellent tries under the post, the first all bustle and determination from 15 metres and the second latching on to a pass in the gap by Brooks 35 metres out, and gliding his way past a string of hapless defenders. Brooks converted both and the referee drew a line on the proceedings with Rhinos rampant victors 55-5.
With Bracknell losing away to Windsor, this bonus point win meant that the Rhinos finished comprehensive winners of the league by 12 points.
Man of the Match
Everyone was excellent today, but the award goes to fly-half Nick Brooks who bossed the game from start to finish, not only kicking shrewdly, making many high quality line-breaks, and scoring 25 points, but also tackling ruthlessly all game long.
Next up it’s the Berks Vets Cup semi-final on Weds 18th April against Bracknell at Holme Park – 6.30 kick-off. The Dictator has a strong squad available, but everyone knows it will be a titanic struggle, so all support will be welcomed !
3 mins – Pen – Brooks
13 mins – Try – Fanshaw
17 mins – Try - Gibson
30 mins- Try - Brooks
31 mins – Conv – Brooks
37 mins – Try – Rackley
38 mins – Conv – Brooks
49 mins – Try – Tully
50 mins – Conv – Brooks
57 mins – Try – Harwell
59 mins – Try – Brooks
60 mins – Conv – Brooks
74 mins – Try - Robbins-Cherry
75 mins – Conv – Brooks
78 mins – Try – Robbins-Cherry
79 mins – Conv – Brooks
39 mins - Parish for Blakemore
50 mins – Robbins-Cherry for Bulteel
59 mins – Swan for Barrow
65 mins – Hemson for Rackley