By Roger Barrett
In a game where you spend most the time behind on the scoreboard, the one time to go ahead is the final 30 seconds of the game
In a game where you spend most the time behind on the scoreboard, the one time to go ahead is the final 30 seconds of the game. That is exactly what Shelford did in their final competitive game of the season on English soil, albeit the victory came at a cost. A squad of 22 made the journey down the A120 to Braintree and all hands were needed to man the pumps in a gruelling encounter that saw Shelford perhaps play the most mature game of the season. The cost came through regular injuries to players, some more serious than the others, with Toby Owers having to be replaced late in the first half having taken a knock to the head. However it was Harry Calne who was so unlucky to break his collarbone midway through the first half. You know it must be serious if Harry comes off the field clearly in a lot of pain and the break was confirmed on Xray. We wish him a swift recovery.
Braintree were a very well organised team, most especially in the forwards, through whom they scored within the first five minutes. Following several driving mauls from the lineout, each conceded after Shelford were penalised three times in quick succession for bringing down the maul, the home team got their reward from five metres out when they adopted the same tactic, sucked in the defence, and created the space for the opening unconverted score. From then Shelford came back into the game both and got their noses in front following two penalties from Harvey Taylor. But late in the half the visitors were once again guilty of standing up in the maul from an attacking Braintree lineout 15 metres out to allow the home team to drive through and then spread the ball wide to touch down for their second try of the game, with the upright denying them the additional two points. Turning around at 10-6 down, Shelford knew that the game was still in their grasp.
The visitors narrowed the gap early in the second half through another successful Harvey Taylor penalty and that is how the score stayed for the next 20 minutes. The game was a very tight affair – Shelford probably were edging it in terms of possession and territory but on too many occasions were guilty of poor handling in midfield to deny them any real rhythm. Whilst the backs weren’t firing in attack they certainly were in defence, with some excellent support from the forwards. In one passage of play Braintree went through about six phases of possession and ended up conceding nearly 20 metres, and were eventually penalised for holding on, on the ground. Still Shelford couldn’t get ahead and the job was made all the harder when Ned Gale was unfortunately yellow carded for a high tackle. Braintree made their additional player count when they scored a converted try with about 8 minutes left on the clock.
At eight points and a player down the omens did not look good for the visitors, not that you would have noticed from the restart. The intent on the Shelford players’ faces was clear to see and following some excellent phases of play up the middle of the park to the Braintree 22, Ryley Stiebrins-Brown put in a delicious kick through to wrong foot the full back and dot down – Harvey’s conversion once again making it a 1-point game. By now Shelford had the wind in their sails, were back up to 15 players, and some more assured attacking rugby gave Kyle Harris the ball 10 metres out and a lovely step inside created the space for him to dive over. Harvey missed his first kick of the game, but the visitors were now 21-17 ahead. From the kick-off Shelford secured the ball and with the clock in overtime Kyle kicked the ball off the park and complete an impressive victory, with all 22 players making valuable contributions. It was the type of game where it was always going to be cruel on the losers but Braintree contributed equally to a wonderful game of rugby.