By the time Captain (Major) Shaun Collins–Lindsay scored after ten minutes, they had already butchered two reasonable opportunities to open their account, and their inability to turn possession into points very nearly cost them the win.
The skipper had appeared to settle their nerves when he took a pass from the lively Mark Richards ten metres out and burst through two tackles on his way to the whitewash. Full-back Justin Wheeler added the extra two points, and the home supporters were hopeful of a try-fest. However, no one seemed to tell the visitors, and slowly they began to exert pressure on the home scrum. With a couple of tricky and pacey backs, they made headway into their opponent’s territory and, on the midpoint of the first period, intercepted an attempt by the Reading backs to run the ball from deep within their 22, and the converted try brought the scores level, and that was how it stayed until half time.
Possibly the key moment of the match happened sixteen into the second period. A blatant shoulder barge on replacement David Rowe saw one of their props yellow carded. He was incandescent with rage, accusing the Rhinos of having 16 players on the pitch – not his first thinly veiled hint that the Referee was not impartial. This comment should have warranted further sanction; however he then stormed away leaving his side the play over half the second period with 14 players. Fortunately for Thatcham, Wheeler’s subsequent penalty drifted wide.
A few minutes later lock Jim Morton stole the visitor’s lineout just inside the twenty-two, and Will Proctor-Searle (stepson of former captain Keith Searle) secured the ball at the back of the rumbling Rhinos pack, and as they crossed the try-line Will (.i.am) dotted down. Wheeler’s conversion took the lead to seven points.
Against 14 players, this should have been the kick star to a comfortable win, but Thatcham were not going to give up, and only frantic defence held them out until eight minutes from time, when they finally managed to break through. Decisively, the conversion attempt was hooked wide, and Reading were able to play the remaining minutes in the relative safety of the opponent’s half. The referee brought the game to an early end after three Thatcham players suffered head injuries within the space of a couple of minutes. Captain-Major had already been withdrawn as a precaution by the Rhinos physio after two knocks to the head.
The game marked a rare occurrence as flanker/lock that Marc McAdden missed his first game since February 2018. That loss was tempered by the return of centre Phil White, who brought his silky running to the back-line, and quite rightly deserved his man-of-the-match award. As he had already left by the time the awards were handed out, Proctor-Searle was “invited” to step in and down the ceremonial pint and pickled egg, this time accompanied by a tame tot of Rhinos Breath.
Next up for the Rhinos is another league fixture at home to fourth placed Farnham Royal on 14th December.