Cirrus clouds scudded across a Marlow sky
Near men, not boys, took to the field
The fresh mown grass welcomed your correspondent to yet another season, full of expectation and hope as all seasons begin.
Cirrus clouds scudded across a Marlow sky as near men, not boys, took to the field.
Flask plucked from the back of the cupboard & dusted down for more touchline tea.
Our collective assessment of the opposition suggested a healthy battle as imposing Marlow physiques warmed up.
In a rare departure I’m going to start with the score. 29-15 in favour of A&C.
So, surely a free flowing game of many chances? No, nothing could be further from the truth…
The game began with a lengthy stalemate around the half way line. The wind favouring Marlow who employed a few (but maybe not enough) testing kicks to see how the A&C defence performed under the high ball.
Multiple phases, great tacking around the fringes for both sides and territory mainly for A&C. The scrum, whilst under pressure, held firm and the lineout performed like clockwork, the usual play being a Jake throw to Jack Gurney. No problem, the lifting working well and Jack soaring like a returning salmon in a fast flowing river.
Memorable plays? A Zac Collingbourne break ending unceremoniously under a mountain of bodies, a jinking break by Ed Griffiths, an Adam Fairley dump tackle on the A&C 10 metre line, a Kieran Booth kick through and a Jack Gurney chase that nearly paid off if not for good Marlow cover.
A stalemate then for the first 25 minutes, a great test for both teams and absorbing if not breath-taking fare. Little space, tough tackling, simple kicking and many probing but ultimately fruitless breaks.
The deadlock was broken by a simple penalty for Marlow in front of the posts as a result of good Marlow rush defence, clattering Huey Chadwick. 3-0 Marlow.
The game then sparked into life.
From the restart Jack Gurney creates danger with a storming tackle, Matthew Bellamy followed up, winning the scrum. Solid work by the pack creates clean ball allowing Blake to break for the line causing havoc and another scrum. This time it was Harry East’s turn to bulldoze his way through. What power! The defence parts like a biblical sea! A deft offload that Ma’a Nonu would have been proud of and it’s Tom Crossfield over the war paint to take glory. Ollie Anderson converts – 3-7, game on!
At the restart more A&C good work, fizzing passes, a Jake Pockockesque clear out, an Ed Griffths break, a Zak sprint, but all to no avail as the half time whistle goes.
The second half underway and it’s a mistake straight away by Marlow who can’t get the ball 10 meters - is that wind stronger than we think? Scrum down on the centre spot. A solid scrum yet again leading to a superb Ollie Anderson kick with the wind into touch at the Marlow 5 metre mark.
The resulting Marlow line-out leads to a clearance kick taken expertly by George O’Keefe. The resultant plays see stolen ball for Marlow who give it to their own speedster who makes great yards to the A&C 22. Huey steps into the line to disrupt a promising Marlow passing move and then it’s Matt Bellamy with a great rip tackle to steal the ball and make great yards before being hauled down.
Yet another infringement but finally A&C get through, Blake on the near touchline at halfway finding half a yard, he sprints through hugging the touchline and shimmying past defenders as if they were stuck in quicksand. Charlie Barraclough providing great support, that ultimately isn’t needed, as Blake glides in under the posts. Ollie converts and there’s now some clear air between the teams – Marlow 3-14 A&C.
Marlow are rocking and yet again the kick doesn’t go ten, again a solid scrum and again a great kick behind the defence by Ollie. Groundhog day? But if it works who needs to fix it, eh? Ollie chases his own ball - rampaging through with great support by Harry East and the centres, the ball finds its way to Jake who deservedly bundles over in the corner. A tough kick, no conversion and that’s 3-19.
Will Marlow respond of fold, they become frantic as they hunt down A&C on their 10 metre line. This is better by Marlow and despite another Ollie clearance, Matt Bellamy chase and Ben Race break there’s no reward this time. This time it’s Marlow who reap the reward from the scrum as their speedster finally gets to open space and sprints through for a converted try. 10-19 and all of a sudden that comfortable scoreline doesn’t look quite as re-assuring - next try wins it I wonder?
The rain descends as we experience a few seasons in an hour - where is that waterproof pen and smudge proof paper when you need it?
Fortunately, the mercurial Huey Chadwick decides he’s had enough after a short injury break, getting the ball on the Marlow 22 he turns on the afterburners, dummies and then speeds over the line… a jinking genius! It’s now 10-24 to A&C.
The next few phases see a Charlie Barraclough marauding chase, a Jake multiple roll over like a premiership footballer faking a career ending tackle, and a Blake tap pass like a volleyball hand-off. Yet another penalty gives A&C the scrum (that’s a 1,000 infringements for the game according to statto and a new whistle for the ref). This time it’s Matt Bellamy’s turn to cross the line after a short burst, A&C are now out of sight – Marlow 10-29 A&C.
It’s not over yet though, the restart leads to more Marlow pressure, turnover ball and a trundle over the line into the corner for the final play of the game. Marlow 15-29 A&C.
How do you sum that lot up?
The wind played it’s part and A&C clearly played the conditions better than Marlow.
Both sides started well in defence with solid fringe play that shut down space and prevented free flowing rugby.
After a testing first quarter of the game the talent of A&C began to shine through with positive clear outs, solid set piece work, great kicking and good running across the backs.
The scoreline a fair reflection and a good days work for the entire team.
Scribe: Phil Race (Interim Telegraph Sports Correspondent)