The Renegades had stunned the hosts with two early breakaway tries; the first inside two minutes, followed ten minutes later with a second, although the way the try scorer was allowed to get up from two tackles and run to the line summed up the day’s officiating.
The Rhinos got on the scoresheet when Julian Edwards broke from the back of a scrum 22 yards out. With his normal recipient Mark Richards nursing a broken pinkie, it fell to his replacement in the No. 9 jersey Toby Jessop to gratefully accept the try scoring pass; Nick Brooks added the touchline conversion.
However, twenty minutes later the full back was yellow carded having taken exception to some ill placed feet. This was the first of three cards issued by the referee, although in truth a few players on both sides can count themselves fortunate to stay on the paddock. The visitors took swift advantage of their numerical superiority to extend their lead.
The scene was now set for Rowe to change the dynamic of the game. The sub had earlier replaced Allan Smith who had mistimed a tackle taking a painful blow to the head. On the stroke of half time crashed , and then eight minutes into the second period, he was on hand to take a reverse pass from the evergreen Ali Driver and power his way over the whitewash. With former skipper Mark Lilley converting both scores, Keith Searle’s side finally took a lead that they were never to lose.
Going back to traditional Rhino rugby, or “stick it up the jump” as it is also known, Reading began to bully the opponents. One notable rolling maul went from the half way line to within ten metres of the try line. The pack took great pleasure dominating the set plays, and scored the final two tries from lineouts. The first came halfway through the second period, and with the Renegades head coach (and part time referee) in the sin bin following a high tackle. A perfect catch and drive from 15 yards out, led to vice captain Shaun Collins dotting down. Then with seven minutes remaining No.8 Julian Edwards scored after the pack had stolen a Renegades lineout.
Edwards was the final card recipient, unfortunately for him it was not the yellow kind. He was dismissed with minutes remaining for inappropriate use of his fist at a ruck. Reportedly the punch itself was not spotted but enough arm movement convinced the man who mattered that the offence had taken place.
The win will come as a relief to skipper Searle, who had seen his charges heavily lose their first two games, and hen to add insult to injury his very able deputy had secured a win in their first league outing. He was full of praise for the side’s resilience, saying “thanks to all those who played at the weekend, and who helped to deliver a memorable fight-back using a combination of traditional Rhino’s forward power with the finesse and subtlety of a “nimble” back line!”
The Rhinos will enjoy having a week off to rest their weary bodies, before heading a short way down the A4 to visit local rivals Rams V (Redingensians to the uninitiated) in a Thames Valley Invitation League fixture on 10th November
Finally a big shout to Luan Ferguson and Gareth Tully on their “Brave the Shave” exploits, raising bucket loads of money for Macmillan Cancer.