The season was fading gently
Spring taunted the touchline with hints of daffodils and bluebells under fluffy clouds scattered across an azure sky
Talk of cricket in the Mini during the journey to the ground, top down with wind messing hair, lent a feeling that the season was fading gently at this last away game of the season. Spring taunted the touchline with hints of daffodils and bluebells under fluffy clouds scattered across an azure sky.
The teams warmed up in near identical kits as the referee clad in Australian gold and green summoned them to play, the whistle sparked the game to life.
Right from the off it was clear that the hosts, Bletchley, were up for this game and their early play caused this mixed Amersham & Chiltern squad problems. Scrums were constantly under pressure, putting the backs on the back foot.
The pressure transformed to immediate Bletchley points, a Bletchley scrum in the A&C twenty two, a shove, a break from the base by the scrum half, a simple pass to the inside half and over the whitewash. 5-0 to Bletchley and well deserved.
The restart was sharper, more direct, a Matt Fulgoni break, a James Bunce bulldozing run, but to no avail as the ball was turned over and scrappy play led to a Bletchley scrum and more pressure – again territory advantage to Bletchley bringing the A&C back line to life. Picking up the ball from a Bletchley clearance kick Zac Collingbourne went on a barnstorming run, skipping, dancing, and then with pure desire crashed through in the corner – try!
No conversion but game on 5-5.
Big Benny Race takes the restart, feeding to Will Drewett searching for respite from constant pressure in centre field. These teams are evenly matched. Ollie Anderson tries his luck breaking to the Bletchley twenty two and it’s clear that if the ball finds A&C backs gaps appear - but it’s turnover ball again, Bletchley get the ball to their blisteringly fast winger only for the preying mantis that is Charlie Barraclough to wrap his long arms around the runner and haul him down. Certain try averted.
More scrappy play in midfield ensues with the referee not helping, blowing up at every opportunity. Jack Gurney is typically tenacious in the tackle, Devan Owen tricky as ever with the quick ball, but nothings working with Bletchley clearly dominating the rucks.
Turnover ball and again it’s Bletchley pressure late in the half, they spin the ball down the line to find defensive gaps in the A&C back line – and again they crack the code, sauntering over near the posts for their second try. A conversion sees them trotting in 12-5 up at the break. Work to do.
Reinforcements appear as Jake Wilkins takes the field. The restart is positive with a chip kick through by Matt Fulgoni nearly working for A&C. Ye mighty Ollie Anderson returns a Bletchley clearing kick - this is better from A&C.
A ‘telescope’ not a ‘monkey’ is called by Bletchley at the lineout by the hooker, who thinks of these names? Bletchley continue to pressure in the A&C twenty two but then, what’s this? A lightning break by Charlie Barraclough from his own 5 metre line tearing through to the Bletchley twenty two, surely, surely? But no… the defensive cover holds and he’s brought down, knock on, scrum. Ref takes a breather….
Backwards & forward it goes in a tight midfield battle, Jake Wilkins foraging away like a demented David Pocock in the breakdown. Bletchley race their way to within a metre but great work by Harry East the human brick wall - stopping the Bletchley Bull.
Turnover again and this time it’s Tom Newlands wriggling through tackles and Ollie Anderson combining to relieve pressure and then another Charlie Barraclough break. The A&C backs are running everything from their own twenty two desperate to get that all important next score. Again saving work by the A&C forwards and this time it’s Zac breaking through, space opens up only for a last ditch tackle to stop the fun. If only he’d had another Weetabix this morning, I blame the parents!
We’re nearing the end of the half and more gaps appear, a creative quick line out, a quick tap from a penalty by Devan, a Charlie B grubber kick that so nearly works… all quick, all close, all to no avail. More pressure, so near the Bletchley posts but a looping pass goes to Bletchley hands [this correspondent sadly can’t see far enough to pick out the miscreant!]
Then with the last breath of the game after more scrapping in midfield Charlie Barraclough finds space, storming down the wing, evading desperate tackles, he’s in! Racing under the posts, a try! Fantastic work. But, what’s that, an apologetic flag appearing out of nowhere on the far touchline. Surely not? It looked in play from our vantage point over 60 metres away? But yes, he’d slipped into touch and the anti-climax of a lineout.
Game over? Not quite as Amersham & Chiltern win the lineout and a resultant scrum in a great position on the Bletchley 10m line near the posts. Stand up heroes? The scrum holds, the ball appears, the backs break but no, a knock on by Jake Wilkins and the final whistle brings the entertainment to a close.
Just not A&C’s day, with too much conceded in the loose and a tough battle up front. Our men of the match (to share the love around) were Zac Collingbourne for his try and general breaks, and Will Drewett for his control around the base of the scrum.
Lessons learnt, game over, now where’s that bar & Guinness?
Telegraph correspondent: Phil Race