Thatcham win nail biter
Gosford All Blacks 22 Thatcham 24
Thatcham secured their first 5 point victory of the season on the road at Kidlington, but only just. It was a nerve wracking afternoon for visiting supporters as each time Thatcham got their noses in front the All Blacks pegged them back again. In what proved an evenly balanced game, Gosford will probably feel a little hard done by to come away with only 1 point. In many ways it was a mirror of the previous season’s encounter which Thatcham also won by a two point margin.
This season’s starting fixtures have not worked out well for Thatcham, who came into this game after a three week lay off after their opening defeat Buckingham. Hardly the best preparation, but they started sharply and went ahead after five minutes when new recruit Derek Allan, at fly half, made a break through midfield to put fellow new boy, Martyn Doolin in to touch down. Danny Shaughnessy adding the conversion. Thatcham were looking confident with the ball in hand, but the home side were quickly back on terms when an ill judged long pass was coolly intercepted for a clear run in and conversion to even the scores at 7 – 7.
Thatcham resumed attack and a good spell of forward domination saw the visitors camped five to ten metres out with a succession of penalties and two All Blacks sent to the bin. Mark Smith at no 8 came closest as the ball was illegally knocked from his hands when a score looked a certainty. It only seemed a matter of time and, if nothing else, the next infringement was sure to bring a penalty try. But credit to Gosford as the 13 men managed to clear the danger with the visitors left scratching their heads in puzzlement.
On the half hour mark Thatcham stretched their lead after another break from Derek Allan put Marty Butler in space, but still with work to do. Shaughnessy converted again to put the visitors 7 – 14 ahead. But Gosford were not long in closing the gap after a good long range penalty brought the scores to 10 – 14 going into the half time break.
Thatcham had the better of the early exchanges in the second period, but were still rocked back regularly by the strong running All Black backs. It was a game that was in truth, won upfront by the visitors pack with Mark Smith again putting in a sterling shift at the base of the scrum but it was Club Captain Nick Rance, playing our of position at inside centre, who made an outstanding contribution in both attack and defence, that just edged out Smithy for the Newbury & Building Society Man of the Match. Ten minutes into the half Thatcham put together a good move through the hands of Toby Littlechild and Nick Rance, via Allan to put Jordan House in for his first try on his debut.
The All Blacks’ risposte was inevitable and Thatcham looked to have fielded the danger when another loose pass helped the home side to a second try. Too often Thatcham seemed to be forcing the offload when a more conservative approach might be more judicious, but on the positive side shows a confidence and desire to play a running game. Neither of these tries were converted so the score went to 15 – 19. It was end to end stuff but Thatcham went further ahead through winger Sean Richardson right in the corner with ten minutes left on the clock, but the 15 – 24 lead brought little comfort as Gosford renewed their efforts. After a long spell of pressure the home side was duly rewarded with a converted try, but Thatcham just managed to hold on for the narrowest of victories.
First points under the belt for Thatcham, so job done, but Gosford surely won’t be far from chalking their first win with performances like this one.
1. Matt Langdon (Capt.); 2. Jamie Evans; 3. Lewis Davies (h/t Dave Chambers); 4. Tom Bestwick; 5. Jack Moore; 6. Chris Dixon (h/t Luke Higgs); 7. Martyn Doolin (55, Ash Taylor); 8. Mark Smith; 9. Danny Shaughnessy; 10. Derek Allan; 11. Jordan House; 12. Nick Rance; 13. Marty Butler; 14. Sean Richardson; 15. Toby Littlechild.
Tries: Doolin; Butler; House; Richardson