Berkshire overcome by Oxfordshire 37 - 19
Berkshire’s Round 2 fixture of the 2014 County Championship against Oxfordshire at Newbury RFC, saw the visitors turn a 19 – 10 half time deficit into a comfortable 37 – 19 win on Saturday 10th May.
It certainly was a game of two halves. The strong wind and showers, some of which were quite heavy, played a major part in proceedings at Monks Lane, Newbury.
Berkshire played with the conditions in the first half. The hosts scored two tries to one from the visitors to open up a 19 – 10 half time lead. However, Oxfordshire playing with the conditions in the second half scored three converted tries and two penalties to no response. Oxfordshire play Dorset & Wiltshire at Witney RFC on Saturday 17th May, the outcome of that match will decide the winner of County Championship Shield Pool 3 and a place in the semi-finals of the competition against the Pool 4 winners. The mathematicians will point out that Berkshire can still go through if Dorset & Wiltshire beat Oxfordshire by a margin of 18 or more points with neither county picking up a bonus point. Technically possible but realistically remote.
The Berkshire pack had the advantage in the set pieces from the outset. The front row trio of Ben Louisson (Windsor), Stuart Silvester (Bracknell) and Ken Dowding (Bracknell) providing a solid platform. However, Oxfordshire’s desire to run the ball, on the occasions they got it, showed a clear desire to play a high tempo game to wear down the heavier Berkshire forwards demonstrated by even taking tap penalties from their own 22.
Full back, Chris Laidler (Windsor) opened Berkshire’s account with a penalty after eight minutes but Oxfordshire struck back almost immediately through their excellent right wing, G Nichol (Grove), who counter attacked from his own half and then was on hand, a number of phases later, to cut through a confused Berkshire defence to score under the posts. Fly half, M Clarke (Witney), adding the conversion. Laidler and Clarke exchanged penalties before Berkshire scored their opening try just after the first quarter. A well organised catch and drive from all of 30m out saw the Berkshire pack muscle their way over the line with Silvester on hand to touch down wide on the left.
Good carrying by locks Kenny Barry (Bracknell) and, Sam Hallett (Reading Abbey) allowed Berkshire’s outside centre, Seb Lear (University of Reading) to benefit from some quick hands to score wide out on the left after 25 minutes. A further penalty by Laidler eight minutes later left the half time score Berkshire 19 Oxfordshire 10. Both sides had to open the second half with just fourteen men as Barry and Oxfordshire prop, J Burke (Witney), picked up yellow cards for an off ball scuffle just before half time.
With the conditions playing such an important part, the half time crowd murmurings were would a 9 point lead be enough? No, was the answer.
Oxfordshire’s game plan was clear. Play for territory and be patient. Within nine minutes of the restart they were rewarded. Outside centre, T Clipsham (Grove), drifted around the Berkshire cover to score to the right of the posts, Clarke adding the conversion. Clarke received a yellow card for a high tackle and a further two yellow cards for some further off the ball hand bags between Berkshire’s hooker, Silvester, and Oxfordshire try scorer, Clipsham, saw them leave the field for 10 minutes also. Down to thirteen men against Berkshire’s fourteen it was the visitors’ scrum half, E Philips (Banbury), that took over the kicking duties from the side lined Clarke converting a penalty just before the match entered the final quarter to give Oxfordshire the lead, 20 -19. Berkshire put no points on the board even though they had a one man advantage for the best part of ten minutes
Oxfordshire winger Nichol’s second try of the day came after 64 minutes. He caught a clever cross kick from Clarke on the full to ground the ball far out on the right. An excellent, in the conditions, and critical conversion from Clarke gave Oxfordshire an important 8 point lead, 27 – 19 going into the last 15 minutes.
Berkshire rallied to break into Oxfordshire’s half but lacked the accuracy and patience to take any points from these forays.
Keeping Berkshire pinned back in their 22 Oxfordshire inside centre, J Bellinger (Grove), cut through from short range to score his side’s bonus point try after 72 minutes, Clarke adding the conversion. Clarke added a further penalty three minutes later. Final score Berkshire 19 Oxfordshire 37.
“This was a disappointing performance” reflected Berkshire Head Coach, Mike Tewkesbury, “Oxfordshire took the game to us and were clinical in their finishing. However, we did not help ourselves with, at times, some poor defence. Also, we never received acknowledgement for our superior performance in the scrum. We have brought together a squad that we know can compete in this competition; it would be pleasing if we can continue to have this commitment from the players and the Berkshire clubs going forward.”
Oxfordshire play Dorset & Wiltshire at Witney RFC, Saturday 17th May. At stake is a semi-final place on Saturday 24th May. The County Championship Shield Final is at Twickenham on Sunday 1st June, kick off 17.15, being immediately after the England vs Barbarians match.
Berkshire Man of the Match: Nico Maybury
Berkshire Scorers: Tries: Silvester 22, Lear 25, Pens: Laidler (3), Yellow Cards: Barry 39, Silvester 52
Oxfordshire Scorers: Tries: Nichol 10, 49, Clipsham 49, Bellinger 72, Cons: Clarke (4) Pen: Clarke (2), Phillips Yellow Cards: Burke 39, Clarke 50, Clipsham 52
Referee: B Miles
Berkshire: C Laidler (Windsor)(75); S McDermottroe (Redingensians), S Lear ((University of Reading)(40)(77), AJ Hopkins (Redingensians), O Johnson (Redingensians); J Harrison (University of Reading)(77), A Webb (Redingensians)(40); B Louisson (Windsor)(58), S Silvester (Bracknell), K Dowding (Bracknell); K Barry (Bracknell)(65), S Hallett (Reading Abbey)(71); M Brambley (Bracknell), J Williams (Redingensians)(50)(73), N Maybury (Bracknell) (Capt); E Whitson (Thatcham) (52), C Herd (Windsor) (58), N Crandon(Redingensians)(71), G Price(Newbury)(73), J Brooks (Redingensians)(40), J Graves (Windsor)(40), B Yates (Bracknell)(75)
Oxfordshire: J Monks (Witney); G Nichol (Grove), T Clipsham (Grove), J Bellinger (Grove), J Mills (Banbury); M Clarke (Witney), E Phillips (Banbury); J Eckert (Grove) (Capt), S Dixey (Grove), J Burke (Witney); L Brown (Oxford Harlequins), A purchase (Oxford Harlequins); C Chilvers (Grove); D Wells (Grove), R Haire (Grove); M Walshe (Grove), D Spenser (Biccester), J Edwards (Bicester), S Peel (Grove), J Chilvers (Grove)
Berkshire captain, Nico Maybury (Bracknell) takes a clean line out ball watched by his fellow Bracknell players (L to R), Matt Brambley (6), Kenny Barry and Ken Dowding as Reading Abbey’s Sam Hallett (5) provides the lift.
Berkshire hooker, Stuart Silvester (Bracknell) crashes over the line for his side’s first try following a 30m catch and drive from the Berkshire pack.
Ben Louisson (Windsor) offloads the ball to fellow prop, Ken Dowding (Bracknell).
Berkshire wing, Sean McDermottroe (Redingensians) cuts through Oxfordshire defence with (L to R), Berkshire captain, Nico Maybury (Bracknell), Sam Hallett (Reading Abbey) and Andy Webb (Redingensians) in support.