9th April 2011

Witney 7 - 24 Maidenhead
(league fixture)

Itís on days like Saturday that you realise why rugby is a winter sport. Taking to the field for their penultimate game of the season, Maidenhead had to walk passed a hoard of Witney supporters sitting outside in the afternoon sunshine, drinking beer and wine, and soaking up the rays. Although the draw of this picture perfect setting nearly had a few players running back to the club, the Maidenhead boys eventually trudged their way across the rock hard fields to the top pitch, ready to face a youthful and strong looking Witney side.

The game started very brightly for the home side, with Witney spending the majority of the first ten minutes of the game camped inside the Maidenhead half. With the sun beating down, any bystander would have thought the Maidenhead team hadnít turned up, however on the pitch the boys defended excellently well and dealt with everything Witney threw at them.

And so, after 10 minutes or so, Maidenhead had their opening period of possession and ventured into the Witney 22 for the first time. Strong set play, followed by a couple of decent phases up the centre of the pitch led to an overlap, and quick hands down the back line led to Peter Bluck scoring a well worked try in the corner. David Goodman missed the conversion.

Maidenhead hit again shortly after. Another mission into the Witney 22 led to a set of scrums and, with the Maidenhead pack starting to exert sheer dominance in this area of the game, they drove to the line to enable Johnny Wanklyn a relatively simple little dive over to score. This time Goodman converted, taking the score to 12-0.

The game then ebbed and flowed, with mistakes and inconsistency creeping in from both teams. Eventually, Witney struck back with a strong try down the left hand side of the field when they managed to run around the Maidenhead defence. This was converted leaving the score 12-7.

At this point, it appeared anything could happen. The Witney team looked younger and fitter than the Maidenhead team, and could easily have come back into contention. However, they were put to the sword at the next kick off. Goodman restarted with an excellently placed high ball. The Witney defence could not capture it, and Maidenhead gathered the ball to drive just inside the Witney 22. With the Maidenhead attack quick to catch up with play and line up either side of the ruck, the Witney defence spread across the pitch to cover. However, a very intelligent pick up by El Capitan, Peter Hickey, exploited the massive gap around the ruck, and he ran in to score. This was again converted by Goodman, taking the score to 19-7 to the visiting Maidenhead team.

Hitting straight back with this try seemed to kill off the Witney spirit, and the scores remained this way until half time. The second half of the game was far more cumbersome as the heat clearly was getting to both teams. A series of good attacking opportunities went astray for Maidenhead, which included a number of uncharacteristic knock ons, and the Witney team seemed to have lost the ability to provide any attacking force whatsoever.

With about 25 minutes to go, Maidenhead killed off the game with their final, and bonus point winning, try. A simple, well executed move from the backs enabled Aaron Lambert to cross in the corner. The conversion, which had to be taken on the significantly slopping Witney pitch, was missed by Goodman taking the score to 24-7.

And that was how the game remained until the final whistle. It was a very controlled, measured win for the Maidenhead team, who combated the heat better than their opposition, and they were rightly rewarded with the opportunity to enjoy the Witney sunshine with a beer following an excellent result.

The bonus point win kept Maidenhead in 2nd place in the league and, with Buckingham losing narrowly, took their advantage over their nearest rivals to 5 points. Finishing second has been the goal for Maidenhead for much of this season, and it is now within their grasp. Securing a losing bonus point next weekend will be enough to see them secure this spot which would cap off another excellent season by the 4th XV. Maidenhead travel to Aylesbury next Saturday in search of this elusive point in the last game of the season.

(Match statistics)