It was a comfortable enough National League 3 South West win for Rams over their Berkshire rivals to move them back up to fourth in the table at Braywick but it came at an uncomfortable price with four players taking damaging knocks.
Hooker and try scorer Chris Rowland looked the most serious, ending the match in a neck brace, while prop Chris Rumble was also side-lined with a knee injury scoring the penultimate of Rams seven tries that could rule him out next weekend and both flanker Aaron Hopkins and lock Connor Stapley picked up nasty shoulder injuries.
The resultant reorganisation led to a scrappy second-half performance from Rams with right-wing Matt Grindle even having to front-up in the front-row at scrum time, albeit uncontested scrums, over the closing stages with only 14 men on the pitch.
As skipper Owen Root said afterwards: “It’s taken a massive toll on the squad today in what could be, potentially, very serious injuries and we wish them the best and hope that they get back on to the pitch very quickly because they are very valuable players.
“The positives to take were that although we didn’t focus for the full 80 minutes we did manage to regain concentration which had a positive impact on the overall outcome of the game.
And he admitted: “There’s a lot to work on but we musn’t go away disappointed but, I think, a few of the boys heads will be down because we know we really under-performed today.”
Rams taking to Maids all-weather pitch for the first time,roared out of the blocks and were ahead as early as the fourth minute when, from a line-out, skipper Owen Root’s drive set-up Rowland to power over and force a great conversion from his fly half Guy Swadling.
Just minutes later some good hands from Stapley, Root, Hopkins and centre Nigel Gumbleton paved the way for wing Josh Smith to touch down but which, this time Swadling failed to convert.
When Hopkins retired midway through the half Andy Amor took over in the back-row and almost immediately Rams increased their lead to 19-0 when, following a great drive from centre Steve Bryant, No.8 Ian Jeffreys broke off a scrum to send scrum-half Will Clark on a superb mazey run to the line which Swadling graced with the conversion.
His brother Simon then joined in the act for the fourth try just before the break, when his pass sent in Smith for his second and his ninth of the season with Guy converting for a 26-0 half-time lead.
While Rams made it 33-0 shortly after the restart, when Jeffreys bull-dozed his way over,Swadling converting. The injury to Rowland soon afterwards upset the visitors equilibrium up front and almost immediately Maids cut the deficit with their opening try from replacement Bali Nasili and they had a second on the board almost immediately when fly half Perry Jansen intercepted a long pass out from his opposite number Guy Swadling and sprinted in unheeded from 55 metres and to convert his own score.
Swadling made amends shortly after when a great break from him led to Rumble smashing his way over for Rams sixth try,it also ended the props match with a damaged knee and hobbling off,Swadling converted and then the final coup-de-grace when Grindle sent in Gumbleton under the posts for number seven.
The match also ended former skipper Dave Cox’s 18 year run with the club as player, skipper and, until last Saturday, as backs coach, due to work commitments.
“It won’t be the end just a temporary time away,” he revealed.
And summing up his last game in charge he said: “When we played well we looked very good but there was too many mistakes. It was slippery conditions and the injuries unsettled us a bit but a wins a win and I’m more worried about the injuries than the result.”
Rams now take on struggling Malvern next Saturday at the Old Bath Road Ground, 2pm.
Rams: Simon Swadling; Matt Grindle, Steve Bryant, Nigel Gumbleton, Josh Smith; Guy Swadling, Will Clark; Chris Rumble, Chris Rowland, James Baker; Owen Root (c), Connor Stapley; Tom Bryson, Aaron Hopkins, Ian Jeffreys. Reps –Ross Crame, Andrew Amor, Roy Wilkinson.
Report by Steve Williams