|Maidenhead 42 - 42 Old Isleworthians|
Maidenhead 4th team welcomed Old Isleworthians, “The friendliest rugby club in West London”, to Braywick Park on Saturday afternoon in what turned out to be a thrilling, open, and above all friendly game of rugby (Bar the traditional Paul Kingsley fracas and Tony Rawlings yellow card incident). With two games left to fight for promotion, Maidenhead used this friendly as an opportunity to give players some valuable game time before the big push.
The first try of the afternoon went to Old Isleworthians. Instigated by the influential and talented Old Isleworthians fly-half, a break down the wing was eventually finished off under the posts, with the Maids defence unable to match the blistering pace of the Isleworthian backline. This was duly converted. Good possession and pressure led to Maidenhead’s first try. A quick tap penalty by Tony Rawlings led to him barging his way over from a gargantuan 3 metres out, and David Goodman converted. However Isleworthians hit straight back with another break down the wing which led to a try in the corner, again converted.
Maidenhead themselves were able to show the talent and pace they had in the back line, with a beautiful arcing run from the ever youthful Jan Weddepohl, however an excellent covering tackle forced Weddepohl into an offload which couldn’t quite go to hand, resulting in a knock on and an Isleworthian scrum. However, all was not lost for Maidenhead. Isleworthians were found guilty of feeding at the scrum and a quick tap penalty from Rick Thorley led to Rawlings again barging over from short distance, although this run was probably double that of his first try. The conversion was, once again, successful from Goodman, leaving the score tied at 14-14.
A penalty in the Isleworthian 22 led to another quick tap from Thorley but this time the impressive scrum half was able to burrow over himself. The conversion by Goodman put Maidenhead into the lead for the first time in the game. However it was not to stay like this for long. Isleworthians dominance in the scrum enabled their number 8 to rumble his way over the line, again converted. Maidenhead’s restart didn’t travel the required 10 metres, and from the scrum Isleworthians produced a try which mimicked their first two, breaking down the left wing and then superb support inside leading to another converted score. Half time, and the teams and supporters were able to catch their breaths, with the score 21-28 to Old Isleworthians. Could the second half match up to the first?!
You bet ya! It started with a scintillating break by the brilliant Isleworthian fly-half from his own 22, who ran the further 80 odd metres to score and convert, making the score 21-35. With 30 minutes to go, Maidenhead were able to offer a debut to Richard Smallman, who half an hour before had just popped down to Braywick for the first time to see what was going on. He was sent away to get his kit and got his first taste of Maidenhead action; true old school recruitment.
Maidenhead then started the comeback. A perfectly weighted box kick from Thorley caused a mix up between two Isleworthian defenders. They clashed attempting to catch the ball, and Rob Wilkins mopped up the loose ball to run to the line unopposed. Goodman converted, bringing Maidenhead back to within a score of Isleworthians. However, another break from the Old Isleworthian fly-half led to their sixth try, which increased their lead to 14 points.
The Braywick crowd were then witness to an event which couldn’t have been written. At a ruck in the Isleworthian 22, Isleworthians couldn’t control possessions and the ball slid out. Ready to pounce was Steve Bourne, who ran to the line with three defenders clinging on to his back. This try was to be Bourne’s last involvement in the game; his immediate substitution marking his last home game for the club due to his imminent retirement from the game. The tissues were out as he left the field to a well deserved ovation from the throngs of supporters and players. The man will be sorely missed on the field of battle and has been an amazing stalwart for the club. He deservedly was awarded the Man of the Match award for his efforts. Wilkins converted to make the score 35-42.
With 5 minutes remaining, Maidenhead produced the most masterful move they have ever pulled off. Rob Davey started the move, taking on the blindside defence. His deft pass back inside to Al McEwan split the defensive line and he broke through. McEwan then passed to Andy Brown on the wing, who made 20 yards before passing back inside to the supporting McEwan. He passed inside to Darren Brown who drew the defence before popping the ball to Ricky Khan who crossed the line to score. Wilkins added the conversion, making it a 100% kicking game from both teams.
The final whistle went with the score a rather apt 42-42. With 22 players getting a good run out, the game turned out to be excellent preparation for the end of season run in. Maidenhead 4th’s are in pole position to gain promotion, currently lying 2nd in the league a point ahead of the chasing Buckingham. With Maidenhead going away to Witney and then Aylesbury (10th and 11th in the league) their destiny is very much in their own hands.