Thatcham fluff southern debut
By Nick Rance
Thatcham made an unpromising start to life in Southern Counties South as a well organised Devizes side took their chances and the home side fluffed theirs. No matter that two of the visitors four tries were gifted by a rusty looking Thatcham, who found th
With a much changed line up, Thatcham were not helped by early season unavailabilities and injuries, meaning that all three replacements had already run out for a II’s fixture earlier. By the end of the game, played on an unforgiving surface, there were two more serious casualties with Danny Shaughnessy pulling a hamstring after 25 minutes and Liam Rowland incurring a nasty shoulder injury in the second half. On the plus side, it was good to see the return of former skipper Matt Langdon, after a season’s absence and Chris Dixon filling Mark Smith’s retiring boots at no. 8.
Devizes were an unknown quantity to Thatcham, other than their results last season and it all started well for the home side. With the better of the early exchanges, new skipper Jamie Evans was held up over the line. The visitors struggled to hold Thatcham’s scrum and there were four resets before scrum half Danny Shaughnessy picked up and ran round the blind side for the score, but missing the conversion. Thatcham defended well with Rich Browne and Tim Apperley tackling back, together with Derek Allan, whose defensive work was prodigious to say the least. The visitors got their first real attack going after 15 minutes, and a useful looking rumble from the pack made good ground. But Thatcham were careless defensively and gave away two avoidable penalties right in front of the posts and Devizes fly half, Brown, made no mistake with the boot to take the lead 5 – 6 after 20 minutes.
Devizes extended their lead soon after as Thatcham misfielded a punt forward, giving possession and a fairly straightforward run in for Dodds on the wing, with Brown adding the extras. Shaughnessy then landed a long range penalty to reduce the deficit.
Thatcham responded well and Danny Shaughnessy broke down the left wing and looked clear for the score, when he pulled up with a hamstring, which will keep him out for some weeks. Both sides had their chances later in the half, but the first period closed with the score standing at 8 – 13 in the visitors favour.
The third quarter was all about “might have beens” for Thatcham. A penalty attempt went wide and Liam Rowland had to retire injured and still only five minutes gone. Alex Crossman moved to scrum half for the injured Shaughnessy and did well, winning the Newbury Building Society man of the match award. But Thatcham really should have got some points on the board, having camped on the Devizes five metre line for a very long stretch, awarded a succession of penalties and with the official waving a yellow card twice at Devizes to reduce them at one point to 13 men. But the score just wouldn’t come in spite of the home side’s superiority in the scrum. Rather than complete the pushover try the ball just kept coming out across the backs and Thatcham hands were inferior to those of the visitors, it has to be said.
As the game entered the final quarter the score remarkably still remained at 8 – 13 and Thatcham were left dreaming of what could have been as they were mugged from Devizes own 22. All credit to the visitors for their valiant defence and good hands as having broken the line were away downfield for full back, Hamill to ground and Brown convert to make it 8 – 20. Still time for the home side to advance and Jack Harwood had a good run, but twenty five minutes into the half a big punt downfield from the Saddlebacks was again misfielded by the Thatcham rearguard and an easy run in this time for Strong to get the points. This time the conversion was missed, but Devizes took advantage of a purple patch and with ten minutes left ran rings around the home defence for centre Orwin to score a well worked try, with Brown adding the conversion.
With the clock ticking down, Thatcham winger Jack Harwood still looked the most likely to do damage and sure enough did well to get the touch down right in the corner as he was bundled out with five minutes left. There was no more scoring and Thatcham were left to lick their wounds and prepare for the trip to Dorchester next week.