This was a clash between two of the divisions bottom three sides so it was always going to be a tight encounter. Add to that Brentwood’s need for points to try to avoid relegation and Shelford’s desire to win their first match of the season, this game was set-up as key to both clubs’ seasons.
In the opening minute Shelford were awarded a kickable penalty but usually reliable Lewis Cracknell, this week starting at 10, miscalculated the wind and pushed the ball wide of the posts.
Shelford and Brentwood then took it in turns to take possession of the ball and to test the opposition defence until the 18th minute when Aston Bevans-Royston powered over the Shelford line to open the scoring for the visitors. Bradley Burr also struggled with the wind with his first kick, with the conversion attempt hitting the post, leaving Brentwood with a 0-5 lead.
Following a clash of heads on 22 minutes, Mark Ryder soon replaced Luca Martinelli and almost immediately had an impact on the game, scoring the first of his two tries on 26 minutes. After his early range-finder, Cracknell kicked the conversion to give Shelford a 7-5 lead.
On 37 minutes Burr kicked a penalty for Brentwood and this was followed, two minutes later, by an unconverted Charles Wilkinson try, giving the visitors a 7-13 lead at half-time.
Shelford left Brentford waiting on the pitch after the half-time break but when they did emerge they came out firing. On 44 minutes the home side’s pressure on the visitor’s line ended with a second Ryder touch down that was converted by Cracknell. One minute later Shelford were again pressurising the Brentwood defence with Alex Long touching down out wide after some smooth passing by the Peacock backs. Cracknell put the kick wide but Shelford had taken a 19-13 lead.
The next 23 minutes saw both sides taking turns to attack and defend in a battle of attrition. As the clock ticked into the final 10 minutes the growing pressure on both sides was evident until Aston Bevans-Royston scored his second try on 71 minutes to reduce Shelford’s lead to 19-18. For the final nine minutes of the game Shelford demonstrated some of the most determined ball retention with ball carriers repeatedly presenting the ball for Charlie Baker to feed to the next forward. As the clock ticked past 80 minutes Baker took the ball from the final ruck and kicked the ball over the clubhouse.
It was clear from the post-match celebrations that this victory had released a huge amount of pressure from both the players and the supporters in what has been a tough season.
This was a complete team effort by Shelford but there are several players that deserve special mention. Miles Anderson’s much-anticipated return to the front row provided the foundations for a strong Shelford scrum. Fred Betteridge was his usual reliable and effective self in the lineouts and always a willing ball carrier. Charlie Baker’s first start at 9 for quite some time introduced some urgency behind the scrum and at penalty time. Grant Anderson provided some strong penetrating running lines, often putting Brentwood on the back foot. Shingai Chiwanga was his usual reliable self at 15 and made a number of important tackles. Sam Till was always ready and eager to carry the ball and in the dying minutes of the game repeatedly ensured that Brentwood weren’t able to get their hands on the ball. Mark Ryder joined the game on 22 minutes and limped off before the end, but while on the pitch he added strong running and committed defence from the back row.
This win was no more than the hard work of the players and coaches deserved. Throughout the season the players, and those supporting them, have demonstrated a resilience and a commitment to Shelford Rugby Club that can only be admired. This victory was well deserved and long overdue.
Next up for Shelford it's going to be a tough trip to top-of the table Sutton and Epsom.
Shelford: 15. Shingai Chiwanga, 14. Alex Long (1 try), 13. Grant Anderson, 12. Warrick Anderson, 11. Ollie Jury, 10. Lewis Cracknell (2 conversions), 9. Charlie Baker, 1. Joe Winter, 2. Louis Mann, 3. Miles Anderson, 4. Fred Betteridge, 5. Todd Scotland, 6. Luna Martinelli, 7. Sharkey Antunovich, 8. Sam Till.
Replacements (all used): 16. Owen Miller, 17. Mark Ryder (2 tries), 18. Flo Turcon.
Brentwood: 15. Henry Galligan, 14. Liam Batty, 13. Tauren Henwood, 12. Adam Thomas, 11. Charles Wilkinson (1 try), 10. Bradley Burr (1 penalty), 9. James White, 1. Tijde Visser, 2. Jack Richards, 3. Aston Bevans-Royston (2 tries), 4. Daniel Suttle, 5. James Killington, 6. Benjamin Amato, 7. Matt Whaley, 8. James Vogel.
Updated 12:39 - 10 Feb 2019 by Leslie Gelling
Replacements (all used): 16. Joel Bevans-Royston, 17. George Bassenger, 18. Thomas Lucas-Roast.