A single red kite circles the pitch, looking keenly for carrion
By Ed Chadwick
Here’s hoping the Chilts’ team don’t provide fodder for this elegant bird of prey
Squad: Akerman, Anderson, Booth, Chadwick, Collingbourne, Dewhurst, East, Fairley, Fulgoni, Griffiths, Gurney, Knowles, MacDonald, Merle, Newlands, Race, Rutherford, Shepherd, Woodroff
The last match of an up-and-down season sees Amersham & Chiltern pitted against Reading in a clash that could determine the outcome of the BBO League 1.
On this blustery spring day, a single red kite circles the pitch, looking keenly for carrion. Here’s hoping the Chilts’ team don’t provide fodder for this elegant bird of prey.
The team assembled for this game is impacted by a mountain of injuries, Jake Wilkins the latest casualty complaining of a dodgy knee like a fragile Daniel Sturridge dodging the end of season graft, preferring a sunny break in Ibiza.
And the touchline banter? All about an Anthony Joshua’s 11th round victory against Wladimir Klitschko in the heavyweight Wembley thriller. Which side on this pitch would dig deep to earn the spoils today?
The pink-clad ref glows like a Ready Brek advertisement on the half way line as Ollie Anderson gets proceedings underway.
A tidy kick-off leads to a Reading line out disrupted well by a soaring Jack Gurney. Reading scramble defence and it’s a Chilts’ line out. Clean ball leads to a ruck but the good work is spoilt as the ball is lost and Reading break free. A beast of a Reading forward is dumped by Tom Newlands, the ball finding its way to another Reading forward who gets no pity from Harry East who brutally stops progress.
It’s centre-field ball for Chilts’ and a scrum under the posts on the 10 metre line – both sides open. A number eight break by Ed Griffiths, with Jack following for afters opens up the field but Reading steal and try the chip through. Too long and Huey Chadwick comfortably touches down for a 22 drop out. A deft chip and Max Shepherd breaks free to half way, but Reading steal forcing a scrum back on the Chilts’ 22-yard line.
The pattern of play is set, with Chilts’ struggling to get out of their 22. Reading rush defence forcing mistakes. A clearance kick by Chilts’ and great shepherding by Max puts pressure on Reading in their own half, but cool heads by Reading leads to a fast break and, despite a haul down tackle by Huey and desperate defence by Aaron Merle, it’s the first score for Reading and a converted try.
A&C 0 – 7 Reading
Matt Dewhurst rucks ferociously to win the advantage but solo runs aren’t punching any holes in the Reading defence. Ed tries to bulldozer over but gets trapped in a 4-man Reading sandwich. Reading clear their lines for a line out. A neat line out and it’s Chilts’ turn to pressure the line, Max, Zac Collingbourne and Huey all spinning and jinking trying to find space but Reading again clear the pressure with a break to the half way line halted with a great saving tackle by Zac.
The Chilts’ scrum is operating well, a huge shove putting Reading on the back foot, but the ball isn’t clean to the Chilts’ flying centres and Reading benefit with a scrum put in after a clumsy knock on.
The Reading possession again tells as the break from the base of the scrum, chaos ensues and despite good tackling Reading retain clean ball and dummy their way through the Chilts’ defence for the second score. The signs are ominous.
A&C 0 – 14 Reading
[At this point your correspondent is distracted by the appearance of a shorts clad Jasper – surely not shorts weather just yet??]
Chilts’ are trying to get a foothold in this match. Ollie tries a No.8 break, feeding Zac, then Max, then Huey, promising…. A ruck forms, good play, Harry joins the party with a storming run legs pumping but Reading again steal the ball in the loose and break themselves, Ben Race hauling down the Reading breakaway.
[Sub: Adam Fairley off, Max Woodroff on]
From the lineout Oscar Akerman drives through, Ben has a go, then Oscar again, but Reading hold firm and the ball finds its way into touch.
Isolated breakaways are a common feature of the Chilts’ play, and insufficient support at the breakdown is inviting Reading to steal the ball.
From the lineout Reading again break, their forwards recycling the ball quickly on the 22-yard line, sucking in Chilts’ defenders and leading to space and numbers out wide on the left that Reading exploit for another try.
A&C 0 – 19 Reading
[Sub: Ben Race off, Matt Rutherford on]
Like a punch drunk Klitschko, Chilts’ drop their guard and it’s another quick score from the kick-off for Reading. Huey desperately trying to prevent the score with a brave but ultimately futile tackle.
A&C 0 – 24 Reading
Chilts’ are on the ropes, and they suffer another upper cut/right cross, with a simple Reading try run in through a dazed Chilts’ defence – this team are getting a standing eight count as they wobble dazed on the ropes.
A&C 0 – 29 Reading
..and that’s the half.
All the talk is ‘win the second half’ and ‘play for pride’.
Chilts’ are winning the scrum, holding their own in the line out, but are being cut apart in the loose, are dropping ball, missing passes and are being turned over in the rucks. The heat map would reveal a lot of red in the Chilts’ half. Confidence isn’t high…
The pink panther with the whistle starts the second half. Come on Chilts!
The early forays are promising for Chilts’. Oscar courageously takes the kick off, forcing a penalty. Max kicks through to force a line out on the near side of the pitch. George Knowles playing hooker finds the soaring Jack who feeds to Harry on the peel, stopped by an army of Reading defenders who fear for their lives. Zac spins and breaks free forcing another penalty. Ed carries, driving into the heart of the defence. Huey jinks and shimmies. Max dances.
All good, all pressure, Reading camped for the holidays in their own 22 breaking out the deckchairs, tent and barbeque but no points yet for Chilts.
From a Reading line-out its calamity again for Chilts’ as they break free from their own 22, great offence sees them holding the ball, taking the tackle, offloading and bursting through… all that pressure from Chilts’ yet it’s Reading who take the first spoils of the second half.
A&C 0 – 34 Reading
Reading take the kick off cleanly, but squander a clear overlap on the break with Isaac MacDonald defending bravely. From the line-out Harry drives, Matt Rutherford carries, Zac shimmies and finally it’s points for Chilts’ as Isaac gets over the whitewash!
The intensity and focus of the second half pays dividends.
A&C 5 – 34 Reading
From the kick off Reading create a maul and drive forcefully. Matt R defends on the fringes to earn a scrum on the Chilts’ goal line. Reading keep up the pressure, spin the ball and, despite Tom's desperation tackle, get the points and that’s the Chilts’ momentum halted.
A&C 5 – 39 Reading
A Kieran Booth break from a messy ruck breaks the Reading defensive line, great work at this late stage in the game, George seizes the ball and carries tenaciously for another ten metres and it’s Reading who are reeling. Ed supports brilliantly and then it’s Zac’s turn to burst through, the turbo is still working as he powers through for another Chilts’ score.
A&C 12-39 Reading
Chilts’ are winning the second half.
Dare to dream? Sadly not to be as Reading climb off the ropes to score, running through the defensive line practically untouched.
A&C 12 – 46 Reading
…and again, this time it’s a rolling maul from a line-out, a text book play straight off the training ground, creating havoc in the Chilts’ defence eventually leading to a try for Reading.
A&C 12 – 53 Reading
The final flourish belongs to Chilts’ who return a Reading chip kick with interest, Huey feeding Kieran who breaks fiercely, sheer tenacity from Max with a jinking run creates space for Matt Dewhurst who takes the points. George with a drop kick conversion for the extras.
A&C 19-53 Reading.
The whistle goes and that’s the last of the action for today.
In January, Newbury were beaten by a superior Amersham & Chiltern team 30-17, this match sadly doesn’t mirror that impressive team performance.
This is an ultimately frustrating end to such a promising season, injuries frustrating this talented pool of players.
Thanks for the entertainment lads & coaches, and huge thanks to Hugh Griffiths who takes a bow as a retiring head coach after so many years forming and then leading this talented group of coaches and players. This scribe for one is hugely grateful for Hugh’s warm welcome, encouragement for Benjo and commitment to the cause.
Scribe: Phil Race