Thatcham pile on the points
Thatcham 96 Drifters 14
Newly promoted Drifters are in danger of becoming this season’s whipping boys after only four games, and it’s probably a reflection of just how tough it is to take the step up into the Southern Counties league. Looking at the fixture list there’s not much relief in sight for them in the near future, either, although with Reading lined up next weekend, Thatcham can hardly afford complacency.
These two sides have shared similar fortunes in recent years, although Thatcham have undoubtedly strengthened since narrowly missing the drop two years ago. It’s not so much that the points total flattered the home team, more that Drifters didn’t play as badly as the scoreline suggests. Early exchanges were well balanced, with both sides threatening, but although Thatcham might have got off the mark sooner had a succession of balls not been spilt, it was in the set pieces that the difference between the teams really showed. The Thatcham pack, once again, were in complete control and the formidable front row union of Caunt, Chambers and Lewis, alternating with Thorogood off the bench, looked pretty invincible, all said and done. It was much the same story in the line out with Smith and Moore secure on their own throw and taking a good proportion of Drifters’ line outs for good measure.
As a consequence, Drifters were repeatedly starved of possession, although they looked useful in the loose and could work the ball well in the backs. Thatcham went ahead after ten minutes with a little bit of Joe Leadley magic footwork, converting his own try. In fact, Leadley kicked a full 13 out of 14 conversions, no mean feat even if many were smack in front of the woodwork.
Up to midway in the half there was no indication of the deluge to come as both sides had their chances and Thatcham again seemed at times in too much of a rush and handling errors ensued. It was twenty minutes in before the next score, when Luke Higgs set up no 8 Mark Smith for his first try, without need of the further support outside. From that point, Thatcham showed the advantage of having playmakers like Shaughnessy and Leadley and the gaps started to open up. Conceding a penalty in their 22, Drifters were further punished from the ensuing line out which went through the hands for full back Nick Rance to cut through and touch down under the posts. Soon after, a break from Thorogood neatly offloaded to Danny Shaughnessy saw Thatcham move into a 26 – 0 lead.
But it was by no means over for Drifters, who were awarded a penalty try when they looked to be about to score out wide as the ball bobbled at the feet of the winger, who was tackled without the ball. 26 – 7, but the writing looked to be on the wall, in spite of losing Rowland to the bin, as Thatcham immediately restored their lead when Jamie Evans made a break deep into the 22. To pass would have been the better option, but no matter, it was recycled from the tackle for Lewis Davies to crash over. Evans completed the rout before half time with the home side’s sixth try after Leadley and Shaughnessy had danced round the defence. The whistle for half time saw the score at 40 – 7 and little chance of reprieve for the visitors.
The third quarter saw no let up for Drifters as Thatcham scored another four converted tries in the first ten minutes. Playing a stormer, it was Dave Chambers who got two of them in the first five minutes. The first being a fairly single handed affair having secured possession from the restart. The second from a Smith-secured line out and drive.
Thatcham had lost Tim Apperley to injury after only five minutes of the game, and it was Rich Browne, coming off the bench to partner Jack Moore at lock, who galloped through for a much deserved try and the Newbury Building Society man of the match award. Jordan House was next in line to score down the flank, having come on as replacement for Richardson.
At 68 – 7 in arrears Drifters had a revival and scored a fine winger’s try, well converted. They came very close to getting another soon after and to their credit still clearly had ambitions of a try bonus. But it wasn’t to be as the home side ran in a further four tries: firstly from Sam Smith at outside centre, followed by a no 8 try for Mark Smith, set up by Liam Rowland. It wasn’t that Rowland was itching to get on the scoresheet, but he was back, making his own way from within his own half, within a minute to make his mark. Then Shaughnessy deservedly rounded it off.
A comprehensive victory, make no mistake, but it’ll be a different story next week as Thatcham look forward to a little piece of history when they play their first league game at Reading’s Holme Park.
1. Jack Caunt; 2. Dave Chambers (James Thorogood); 3. Lewis Davies; 4. Tim Apperley (Rich Browne); 5. Jack Moore; 6. Luke Higgs; 7. Martyn Doolin; 8. Mark Smith; 9. Danny Shaughnessy; 10. Joe Leadley; 11. Sean Richardson (Jordan House); 12. Jamie Evans; 13. Sam Smith; 14. Liam Rowland; 15. Nick Rance.
Tries: Leadley; M. Smith(2); Rance; Shaughnessy (2); Davies; Evans; Chambers (2); Browne; House; S. Smith; Rowland
Conversions: Leadley (13)