Chiltern come off second best in season curtain call
The narrowest of losses reflects a season where Chiltern 2nd XV couldn't quite find the consistency required to top the table
Knowing they needed a 4 try bonus point win to stand any chance of regaining 2nd place in the league, Chiltern had a less than ideal start when bad traffic, a car crash and a broken down car meant the full squad wasn't assembled outside to warm up until 15 minutes before kick-off. Fortunately, a 10 minute delay to kick-off was negotiated meaning the team could at least run through a couple of phases before the action began.
Despite the majority of the pack usually playing for the 3rd XV and Witney clearly having the weight advantage in the scrum and backline (not necessarily an advantage there), Chiltern played and tackled excellently in the first 20 minutes to open up a 3-10 lead. The penalty, courtesy of Ollie Choules was followed by a converted try scored by Lewis Culverhouse, after a great break by Henry Bowcock.
Witney were playing some fantastic rugby too, regularly looking to attack the 10 channel and then get the ball wide quickly to run hard at the young Chiltern backline. The boot of Witney's number 4 kept them in it with another 2 penalties due to the consistent infringements around the rucks. HT 9-10 to Chiltern.
The second half got off to the perfect start with Chiltern scoring a superb try when Jake Cutter produced a pin point cross field kick for Ben Dugdale to gatherly sublimely. Ollie Choules, who kicked wonderfully all game provided the extras to put Chiltern in a great position with the score now 9-17.
Witney upped their game and responded with a try of their own in the corner, after they exploited an overlap out wide. Again, their number 4 was on hand to convert brilliantly from out wide to close the score to a point. 16-17 Chiltern. The boys from Weedon Lane picked up a penalty in front of the posts with 15 minutes to go before Witney broke straight through the centre of a ruck. Numerous last gasp tackles resulted in Matt Neill receiving a yellow card for not rolling away with Witney just short of the Chiltern line. With Chiltern down to 14, Witney pushed over to take a 1 point lead with 10 minutes to play.
2 minutes later, it was 14 v 14 - a Witney player going in the bin for cynical play. From the resultant penalty, Chiltern decide to take a short at goal. Sadly the kick from the right hand channel about 40 yards out drifted just wide of the uprights. With Chiltern back to 15 for the final 4 minutes, a good chance to attack out wide was frustratingly kicked away. Witney wound down the clock, winning a penalty with 40 seconds to go and as it sailed wide and over the dead ball line, the final whistle blew!
An agonising 21-20 loss meant Chiltern will finish a very respectable 3rd place in BBO1.
Well that's it, another season over (for the 2nd XV at least). The 2nd XV management and regulars will look back on the season and probably be a little disappointed in how it ended. However, all should be very proud with the performances managed, especially given the struggles of the 1st XV.
With a number of key 1st team players leaving over the Summer and consistent availability issues, the 2nd XV relied on the able skills of upwards of 75 different players as more and more were called up into the 1st team squad. It is a great testament to the strength and depth within the club and it's been fantastic to see a number of youngsters shine in their first season of senior rugby - not one taking a backwards step against their often sizeable opponents.
Huge thanks go to Huw Thomas, Dave Choules and Alan 'Simmo' Simmons for giving up their Saturdays and plenty of other evenings in the week to corral a team together, coach and support on game days. Without them, I am sure the success on the field would not have been possible.
There have been some fantastic highs, most notably the last gasp win over Chinnor Wildboys but some equally some humbling lows (Redingensians away). What's for sure is that the mighty Red & White Dynamite will be back next year to try and take the BBO1 title and continue their unbeaten run at Weedon Lane!