Top of the Table Clash of the Titans
A thriller in the drizzle
Squad: Booth, Chadwick, Collingbourne, Deane, Dewhurst, East, Griffiths, Gurney, Knowles, Merle, Owen, Race, Shepherd, Weatherall (Capt.), Wilkins Subs: Bunce, Cohen, Nelson, Newlands, Woodroff
This is a day for waterproof pens or a gazebo parked by the side of the pitch to protect this poor correspondent. However, the Amersham & Chiltern press box is yet to appear, so an umbrella from a friendly spectator has to suffice on a drizzly day in the glorious Chiltern countryside. The match notes are at times impossible to read, with smudge tackling smear, so fiction may overtake fact at times!
The initial forays bring early Chilts pressure on the Reading Abbey line on a muddy, claggy, rain soaked pitch more suited to growing potatoes than a game of rugby.
The first scrum sets the mark as Reading forwards get a shove on, the occasional glimmer of orange and yellow boot shining like beacons from the mass of humanity grappling for dominance. Scrum half Devan Owen fields tricky ball, shipping a clean pass to Huey Chadwick, then George Knowles protects the ball to retain possession. An early high tackle by Reading leads to a Chilts penalty and the early dominance begins to tell.
It’s not an easy day for kicking as Monty Weatherall falls short, allowing Reading to respond with a punt up field. Huey knocks on at the half way line as the bar of soap masquerading as a rugby ball slips his grasp, that’s another scrum for Reading on the half way line.
A solid Reading scrum and a blind side break forces Chilts on the defensive, with Jack Gurney tackling fiercely to save a certain try. Reading retain possession spinning the ball to their No.8 who tries an audacious chip kick that goes nowhere. Ben Race wraps the support runner like a spider snaring a fly, and it’s yet another free kick amongst this early sparring, leading to a Chilts line out.
Jake Wilkins launches one to the middle of the line out in a dangerous position on the Reading 22 but his aim is off and it’s more scrappy ball eventually kicked through by Chilts to the Reading dead ball line.
Monty and Jack combine to retain the ball after the 22-yard line kick restart by Reading and after a lateral passage of play another free kick for Chilts follows.
Nick Deane whispers encouragement from the opposite touchline, Red Kites scatter and badgers run for cover scared for their lives as the dulcet tones boom out over the rolling countryside.
Devan’s quick brain fires with a quick tap penalty but Reading are wise to it, more organised Reading defence and another kick to touch.
Jake misses his jumper again and Reading capitalise, forming a muddy marauding maul, but Jake is equal to it, redeeming his lineout failings with a courageous steal. A quarter of the match gone and it’s no score. Tense stuff.
The next Chilts line out again fails to find its mark, more scrapping and a Chilts scrum. The pressure remains as Reading force Chilts backwards – this isn’t going to be an easy day at the office for the Chilts forwards – but the ball pops out on the Chilts side, freeing Zac Collingbourne to break. Ed Griffiths hits the breakdown, aggressively driving forward, then Jake joins the party, rumbling forward, flopping gratefully over the whitewash for the first score of the game. Monty takes the conversion and it’s 7-0.
Wilkins (T) Weatherall (C)
The Reading kick off brings their No.8 into the game, a running warehouse/wardrobe, a beast of a boy, forcing a scrum. Reading run it from a dangerous position, Ed marshals the defence but another Reading break by their scrum half sees Huey nearly tricked on his own line. Recycled ball and clean hands give Reading hope and pressure tells as they find a gap in the Chilts defence to score. A simple conversion levels the score. 7-7.
The restart leads to a Reading break and, despite Monty saving a tackle, fierce Reading pressure leads to a sharp back move, an overload of numbers and another try in the corner. No conversion this time and it's game on! 7-12.
The restart leads to a Chilts lineout and a change of hooker, with James Bunce taking the ball but yet again no dice. Reading carry the ball using their highly effective forwards but eventually Huey steals the ball, and takes on the entire Reading team with a jinking dangerous diagonal run from his own 5 metre line. Max Shepherd, then Zac joins in at the half way line but a knock on halts progress.
More Chilts pressure from General Monty who stewards the play, shipping left to Harry East who’s hauled down, then right to Ed who’s wrapped up. Ed holds on to the ball in the tackle to concede the penalty and Reading kick the ball out to summon the half time whistle.
The formula for the half is simple – Reading are dominating the scrum and the forward battle, Chilts are missing the lineout but are saving the game with swift back play. Time for a change of plan?
The Reading restart finds a forward, George Knowles drives back powerfully, but a missed tackle creates space for Reading who storm through in the early seconds of the half to score. The omens aren’t good for Chilts, Reading have their tails up. 7-17.
The scarlet clad referee calls the restart and Reading play to their strengths, running the ball through the forwards. Max Woodroff, Kieran Booth and Harry all hold firm like a battalion at Ypres in the trenches, forcing a mistake and a scrum on the near touchline. Chilts run it and then Monty tries to kick his way free, swinging a boot like a high-handicappers three wood during a medal round. Reading return the favour, finding Huey prowling the deep. He ships to Monty who clears to the Reading 22 with a clearance kick for a Reading defensive line out.
Scrappy ball and it’s a Chilts steal, the ball appearing at the base of the ruck like an egg from a muddy big bird. Chilts can smell the line, like a lamb roast on a Sunday dinner table, they’re so close to the whitewash in the far right hand corner. Jake breaks, Ed follows up but a fumbled knock on halts progress. The scarlet ref calls an advantage free kick in favour of Chilts and again quick thinking by Jake with a tap and go. This time he involves the backs, with clean hands to Max, then Zac who ships the ball to Huey - the ball travelling from one side of the pitch to the other. Aaron Merle runs on Huey’s shoulder but he’s not needed as Huey glides over for the score. 12-17.
This is turning into a great game of rugby.
The return kick is run by Chilts’ who have realised the ball needs to be spun out wide rather than held in the forwards. Tom Newlands gathers the ball and ships it to Zac who breaks cover. A Reading tackle, a chip kick through, and it’s Reading's turn to run it from half way into Chilts’ territory. Jack is now in the line out, stealing the ball land finding Max who storms forward in his bright yellow boots, as if his feet are being attacked by a flock of canaries.
The ball is recycled to the backs and it’s Huey again for a score in the corner. The scores are level! 17-17.
The Reading restart is returned with interest by Monty, creating a lineout in dangerous territory. Tommy Deane drives through, storming through the tackle. The ball is recycled, the forwards plunder territory, they’re on the edge of glory millimetres from a score… a knock on stops the fun and you can hear the Reading sigh of relief. The scrum gives Reading possession but great centre play creates a chance that the ruthless Chilts backs capitalise on. Max, Zac, Huey all combining to feed Ed who scores in the near corner. What a turn around. 22-17.
This time Reading fail in the line out, missing their jumper as the rain tumbles down – this journo’s note pad is covered in smears like tears on a love letter. Reading bundle through creating a scrum, but Aaron does brilliantly finding his centre as the scrum is shoved back miles. The ball drifts to Huey who chips forward but Reading retrieve. This is attritional stuff around the half way line, a passage of play that suits Chilts. Chilts force a penalty 10 metres inside the Reading half in centre field and Monty calmly takes the points to widen the gap. 25-17.
A smart move with only 6 minutes left on the board and Reading now require 2 scores (tries) to win the game.
[I now can’t feel my fingers, and the pen has stopped writing… time for a Dictaphone?]
The Reading restart creates yet another pressure scrum, and a sharp break is just forced into touch by the Chilts defence. The line out finds Max who kicks from under his own posts after a risky passage of play. Kieran chases down the Reading runner and it’s more half way action, suiting Chilts. Reading kick to clear, finding Huey who passes to Zac. A clean break relieves the pressure and Max storms through again - these Chilts centres are something to behold today. A mound of bodies stop the flow for a brief moment, but the ball re-appears and swift hands gets the ball from right to left field. The Reading wall holds firm forcing a 5 metre scrum for Chilts. Aaron picks up the scraps and, quick thinking, finds Ethan Nelson in a clean white Persil advert of a shirt 5 metres out to score in the left corner. 30-17.
…and that’s the game. A thriller in the drizzle.
Man of the match? The forwards were well marshalled by Ed Griffiths but the backs made the difference.
This observer awards the points to Huey Chadwick for his courageous running and lethal finishing.
The coaches, however, nominate the centres and Max Shepherd in particular for both awesome defence and offence.
I can’t argue.
Great game between the top two teams in the Bucks, Berks & Oxon U16’s League 1.
Scribe: Phil Race