The hosts surged into a 29-0 half-time lead and had 36 points on the board within three minutes of the second period getting under way, and Stow’s final quarter fightback could not remove the gloss of victory.
Thatcham’s early set piece domination was supported by surging runs from deep with locks Mark Smith
and Mike Grogan
making ground and fly half Toby Littlechild
always sniping. It was loose head prop Matt Langdon
who touched down the ninth minute opener following a breakthrough from Ash Taylor, well supported by the returning Martin Reeve at hooker. Autodata man of the match, Toby Littlechild
converted before helping himself to a seven-pointer inside the 20 minute mark, after dipping his shoulder and running in from the 10 metre line.
Player-coach Martin Reeve, with close support from Mark Smith
, squeezed over from a lineout drive and a superbly crafted move ended with tight head Dave Chambers crashing through for another converted score before Reeve bagged his second try with a sprint finish just before the half time whistle, after Houghton made the break and Jamie Evans
helped complete the move with a great pick up. Probably the first time all three members of the front row union had scored in the same match, and before half-time!
Thatcham restarted in the same blistering mould and a dropped goal attempt from Littlechild went narrowly wide. Then Charlie Cox
made a penetrating run deep into the Stow 22 and the ball was recycled for the irrepressible Littlechild to bag another seven points. With the second period barely underway, it looked as if Thatcham would run rampant on their way up, but Stow had read the script and started to make a real game of it with full back James Holmes sparking their revival.
A tap penalty ended with Holmes touching down, and Craig Chapman rounded off some sharp recycling work with a try converted by George Roddan. Thatcham had run themselves ragged and the scale of their points advantage seemed to induce a degree of recklessness on which Stow were quick to capitalize. Another quickly taken penalty was finished off by Chapman and Roddan’s conversion before Holmes snapped up an interception and raced away from his own half to complete the scoring. The hosts had played the last 10 minutes with 14 men after Simon Bowes
was binned in what will probably be the shortest appearance, about 30 seconds, after coming on as replacement. But all Thatcham wanted to hear was that final whistle and the knowledge that their bonus point victory would send them up to a higher level.
1. M Langdon; 2. M Reeve (60, N Vass); 3. D Chambers (55, S Oakham); 4. M Smith; 5. M Grogan; 6. S Houghton (70, S Bowes); 7 J Evans; 8. A Butt; 9. D Hudson; 10. T Littlechild; 11. A Taylor; 12. M Billinghurst; 13. C Cox; 14. A Mitchell; 15 D Tingle
Tries: Langdon; Littlechild (2); Reeve (2); Chambers;
Conversions: Littlechild (3)