Thatcham 27 v Walcot 14
By James Thorogood
Thatcham hit the target
With the season nearing its conclusion this was one of the remaining target “must wins” for Thatcham, despite Walcot’s fifth position in the table. The reverse of this fixture, back in December, had been a close fought and error strewn affair, with Thatcham coming away with a losing bonus. But the chill March winds might have felt just a little colder had Thatcham got only one point from this encounter. The omens weren’t good for the home side with two more key players side-lined with injury last week and late withdrawals which resulted in more reinforcements drafted in from the II’s squad.
But the Thatcham coaching team of Paul Roberts and John Dixon made some intelligent positional changes, which included putting the excellent Louis Kanaar-Brown out on the wing for three quarters of the game, so with strong performances from everyone in a red and blue shirt it all combined to produce a bonus point win and a margin of victory that could have been higher had at least one of Sean Richardson’s three occasions over the line been judged to be grounded!
Toby Littlechild made a rare, but welcome return and showed he’s not lost any of his appetite at this level. Thom Bailey stepped up at scrum half with some sharp distribution, and Sam Swann, making his debut from the bench, helped ensure the home front row’s domination of the scrums did not diminish, coming on to replace Lewis Davies when the home side was just a whisker in front at 15 – 14.
Walcot took the lead after seven minutes when Thatcham were penalised for handling in the ruck. The visitors just managed to get the ball back from the scrum and go over, converting well to secure a 7 point start. But a good spell of Thatcham pressure followed, with Littlechild spearheading a fine break that took them deep into the Walcot 22. A scrum was awarded but Thatcham were penalised for pushing early, reflecting the high levels of intensity from both sides. But Thatcham played with more discipline and the penalty count was much reduced this week.
With twelve minutes on the clock Thatcham profited from a catch and drive, grounded by James Thorogood, with the first of his hat trick of scores. Walcot were defending well, but for most of the half were conceding territory, thanks in large part to Thatcham’s front row who were bossing the set pieces and ensuring the visitors had to feed on scraps. Shaughnessy and Allan made good inroads, so with Thatcham in the ascendancy, the home side’s Newbury Building Society man of the match, Mark Smith looked through for the score, but offloaded to Thorogood who was taken out with a crunching hit. The ball broke loose and, against the run of play, Walcot made a good break down the right wing for the score and another fine conversion to extend their lead to 5 – 14 with five minutes of the half remaining.
Thatcham responded well and Walcot were forced into some desperate defending as it looked just a matter of patience for the home side to come good. Richardson looked to be over, but not given. The collisions were solid as Butler came close. Thatcham lost possession, but won the penalty on a Walcot scrum right in front of the sticks. Taking the sensible option, Shaughnessy made no mistake with the kick to send the sides in with Thatcham in arrears at 8 – 14 at the break.
Thatcham continued to take the game to the visitors after the re-start, but when Walcot did get a sniff they showed some strength in the back line, and it was a handling error that denied their overlap from getting behind the home defence.
But for the most part, Thatcham were in control, so with honours even at the breakdown, it was their set piece superiority that provided the home side with plenty of possession. Mark Smith’s runs from the back of the scrum ensured Walcot’s defence had its hands full as Thatcham kept the ball alive and moving wide. Smith was stopped short and Richardson and Allan got over the line, but held up, so fifteen minutes had passed before Thatcham took the lead for the first time with Thorogood’s second and Shaughnessy’s conversion to put Thatcham’s nose in front 15 – 14.
Derek Allan chipped forward for Richardson to touch down, but it wasn’t his day as he was just in front of the kicker. By now there was little left from Walcot, but they were still managing to frustrate the home attack. A full half hour elapsed before Thorogood, carrying the skipper’s armband, got his third try to put a bit of daylight between the sides at 20 – 14. Now it was time to go for the bonus point and Marty Butler made sure the desire didn’t let up, having made the break he chipped ahead to avoid the tackle and got the touch down for Danny Shaughnessy to add the extras.
With Sherborne playing in the cup next week, Thatcham’s next fixture is away at Bradford on Avon on 23 March.
1. David Chambers; 2. James Thorogood; 3. Lewis Davies (65, Sam Swann); 4. Ben Walton; 5. Rich Browne; 6. Tim Apperley; 7. Charlie Rayner (65, Adam Hunter); 8. Mark Smith; 9. Thom Bailey; 10. Danny Shaughnessy; 11. Sean Richardson (75, Callum Stewart); 12 Derek Allan; 13. Marty Butler; 14. Louis Kanaar-Brown; 15. Toby Littlechild.
Tries:Thorogood (3); Butler