|Aylesbury 0 - 27 Maidenhead|
31 weeks since they started their campaign, Maidenheadís season came to a close this Saturday with a trip away to Aylesbury, the team they played all those weeks ago at the very start of the season. Maids needed only a single league point to secure that elusive runnerís up spot, and subsequent promotion, which they have been in search of for the last three seasons.
Maids started in their customary lacklustre manner, struggling to get hold of the ball in the opening 10 minutes. A very youthful Aylesbury side were quicker to breakdowns and able to control their possession far better than Maidenhead, with some fairly poor refereeing at ruck time assisting them. Maidsí back line were penalised on several occasions for being offside, which brought consternation amongst the pretty boys, and left the team regularly being pushed back into their own half. However, one of the main strengths of this Maidenhead team has been its defence and this did not let them down today. Some excellent tackling kept Aylesbury at bay and all their pressure in the opening 10 minutes came to nothing.
Finally Maidenhead started receiving some possession and were able to work their way into the Aylesbury half. A well worked lineout led to a driving maul. The ball was controlled brilliantly at the back by Malcolm Brooker and, as the Aylesbury team failed to cover the flanks, Mattie Filmore picked the ball and split off from the maul, nearly hitting full speed to drive deep into the Aylesbury 22. Mike Brenner was quick to clear out the ruck, and following a couple of phases Captain Peter Hickey drove over the line to score the first try of the afternoon. David Goodman fluffed the kick, leaving the score 5-0.
The game then struggled to get any momentum as the referee, who had encouraged quick play during his routine pre match chat, struggled to understand the laws at the breakdown, leading to regular stoppages in play. Maidenhead did get to score again before the break, when another beautiful backs move constructed by Goodman ended up with Andy Brown scoring a well worked try. Again Goodman, who clearly hadnít bothered to pack his kicking boots for the last game of the season, missed the conversion. This left the score 10-0 at half time.
The second half saw Maidenhead start with more composure. They were able to control the ball and spent a large amount of the rest of the game inside the Aylesbury half. Maidenheadís forwards were starting to show their younger counterparts how to play the game and a series of strong scrimmages and drives pushed Maids into the Aylesbury 22. But give Aylesbury their dues; their defence was strong and kept Maidenhead out on a number of occasions. Poor refereeing also played its part, as one such drive led to George Blackwell crossing the try line. Two Aylesbury defenders picked him up in the tackle and started driving him over the touch in goal line. Suddenly the ball was placed down from nowhere by the wily Blackwell who had managed to free his arm enough to score the try before he was taken out of play. However, the referee claimed the ball had to be placed down within a certain amount of time and this time had been exceeded, so didnít allow the try to stand. This is quite clearly a new law which we need to clarify with the IRB.
The third try did eventually come through a dummy, scissors, pop move, again constructed by Goodman, which led to Al McEwan, one of the players of the season, crossing in the corner. Goodman, having comprehensively missed the previous two kicks, allowed the duties to be handed over to Tim Callaghan. Obviously the Goodman ĎMagicí had rubbed off on Callaghan, as he too struck the ball wide of the posts. 15-0 to Maidenhead.
The match, along with that coveted runners up spot, was finally sealed with around 15 minutes to go, following some excellent phase play tight on the Aylesbury line which led to a 3 man overlap for Maidenhead. The ball was quickly recycled down the line and Al McEwan went over to score his second try of the afternoon. This try secured the bonus point Maidenhead needed to guarantee 2nd place in the league. Goodman, who had decided to return to kicking duty, finally made decent contact with the ball and, with a sigh of relief, it sailed through the posts to great delight from the Maidenhead players.
There was just enough time left in the season for Maidenhead to score one last try. Rob Davey, who had come on as a substitute at half time and had made some barnstorming runs, broke free of a tackle just inside the Aylesbury half and, to the amazement of the Aylesbury back line, sprinted away 40 metres to score. Goodman stepped up to take the relatively simple kick and, back to old form, missed, leaving the final score 27-0 to Maidenhead.
And so the season closed with a bonus point win for Maidenhead. With Buckingham losing to Bletchley, the result had been inconsequential. Maidenhead finished runners up in the league on 75 points, with the winners Bletchley way ahead on 89 and their nearest rivals Buckingham 9 points behind on 66. This was just reward for a team which has had a variety of players throughout the year, but all of whom have has continually given their all for the 4th XV. The team spirit shown has richly deserved this spot in the league, matching their 1st XV counterparts, and the entire club can be justly proud of their achievements, proving that Maidenhead has a strong set of players throughout the senior squads. A big thank you goes to everyone who has strapped on their boots and run on to the field as a 4th team player this year. We look forward to next season, whichever league we now end up in.