Crowthorne 30 - 24 Tadley
Left boot of Crows fly half the thorn in Tigers side
Tadley travelled to Crowthorne looking to avenge the 3-15 loss when the sides faced each other back in November.
An eventful opening saw Tadley reduced to 14 men when second row Tom Altmann was harshly sin binned for a deliberate knock. His outstretched arms failed to cling on to ball as it flashed across the Crowthorne back line. The hosts were quick to capitalise on the man advantage retaining possession from their line out and scoring to the right of the posts a few phases later. The conversion was slotted making it 7-0 up with 5 minutes played.
Tadley played themselves into the game with the forwards gathering momentum in the narrow channels before releasing the backs to stretch the defence. The referee again went to his pocket when the Crows flanker cleared out opposite number John Symons illegally at the breakdown, the blind side failed to enter through the gate and lifted the legs beyond the horizontal. From the penalty Tadley continued with their promising phase play and worked the hosts retreating defensive line.
Dominant carries from Number 8 Dan Fowler and Loose head Mike Patrick left the defenders too much to do as Symons made the final surge to score under the posts. Fly Half Dennison duly slotted the conversion to level the scores, 7-7 with 12 minutes played.
Buoyed by the try and the return of Altmann to the field Tadley were second best to the restart and 14 man Crows regained possession. A few innocuous carries down the blind side brought wing Tom Jeffrey into the defensive line leaving no one in behind, the quick witted scrum half lofted an end over end kick over the ruck which had steady momentum. The nine chased his own kick and was first to fall on it as it rolled over the try line. The angle was suited to the left boot of the Crows kicker who converted to regain the lead 14-7 with 15 minutes played.
Tadley put the disappointment of conceding such a soft try behind them and began to play with confidence and vigour. Scrum half Rhys Miller set the tempo with centres Adam Stanley and Jack Davies tying up defenders with robust carries and tight running lines. The pack worked effectively in recycling the ball and the variation at the line out kept the hosts guessing. Tadley’s ability to swiftly recycle the ball unsettled the Crowthorne defence and Davies was on hand to exploit the space between the centres to score from 30 metres out. Dennison again converted to level the scores at 14-14 with 25 minutes played.
An early change at fly half for Crowthorne had been fortunate as the replacement’s left boot continued to find field position and put Tadley under pressure. His kicking from the tee was also faultless as he stretched the hosts lead to 20-14 with 2 penalties before half time. Ill discipline at the tackle area by Tadley lead to both harshly awarded penalties.
Tadley took many positives from the half and had a clear objective for the start of the second, cut out the sloppy errors and play in the right areas. An early penalty was drilled to the corner by Dennison and the forwards executed perfectly from it.
Debutant second row Matt Newman leapt to reach the lobbed throw with Symons securing as the jumper landed. The maul formed and the ball moved back to Hooker Jonny Owen who gladly scored as the pack marched over the line. Dennison had the angle to convert edging Tadley into a 20-21 lead.
Crowthorne came back into the match and looked to frustrate the Tadley pack, using there driving line out to good effect in the attacking half of the pitch. A penalty awarded for sacking the maul, offered the kicker a chance to regain the lead, slotting at the second time of asking after the ref requested a retake due to the proximity of a benign Tadley player. 23-21 to the hosts with the best part of half an hour to play.
The Referee again produced a yellow for a high tackle on Jeffrey who was collared by his opposite man, the colour of the card was fortunate as the referee contemplated red as his option.
Tadley struggled for rhythm but were able to edge in front again as Dennison made it 23-24 with another penalty. With 20 minutes to play the game looked like it could go either way, full back James Port evading defenders and substitute Tom Bartlett making surging runs which had the hosts struggling to retreat, nevertheless Crows recovered to clear their lines and pressurise the Tadley line out in more neutral areas of the field.
Crowthorne began to carry aggressively and win the collisions, making inroads in the Tadley half, the defensive line finally buckled as the centre broke through, the covering defenders couldn’t make up the ground and the winning try was converted in front of the sticks.
A final 5 minutes saw Tadley camped down in the Crows 22 but scrappy ball from the back of the scrum gave Crows enough of an opportunity to scupper a final flourish. 30-24 at the final whistle gave the hosts a narrow victory and Tadley disappointed to come away with only a loosing bonus point.
Man of the Match: Jack Davies
Tadley XV: Port, Jeffrey, Davies, Stanley, Colburn, Dennison ©, Miller R (Bartlett), Patrick, Owen, Andrews, Altmann, Newman (Seal), Symons, James C, Fowler (Leng)