Thatcham re-write the same story in target game
By Nick Rance
With North Dorset and Thatcham both flirting with relegation, this was a target win for both sides.
But it was to be the home side that came away with the spoils and a bonus point win that pushed them above Thatcham in the league table. David and Goliath it was not, but the North Dorset big men helped make a statement about how this game was going to be played. It was hardly an afternoon for fancy footwork and the home side knew how to use the conditions to best effect. Playing down the slope and with the strong wind at their backs in the first half, Dorset applied the early pressure, but the Thatcham defence held up well.
Davies and Chambers unavailability in the front row this week saw Thorogood return at tight head with skipper, Jamie Evans, at hooker. His place was filled by Mark Smith, making a first appearance of the season at no 8, so with Apperley and Browne in the second row the visitors’ pack looked a well-balanced unit.
But North Dorset took no time to reveal their game plan as they used a first penalty award to kick for a distant touch 5 metres out. The catch and drive worked a treat for their big man at lock to ground and the conversion provided a seven point lead. In open play the visitors’ defence was strong, but Thatcham were finding it hard to get out of the half and a further penalty right in front of the posts allowed Dorset to extend their lead to ten. Thatcham began to gain ground and territory, winning good ball with Mark Smith secure as ever off the top of the line-out. Penalties started coming and Thatcham spurned a simple three points to go for touch. It look like it might have been a poor decision as the ball went through the phases, but another penalty award saw Dan Tingle take the initiative with a quick tap and he was over the line, Charlie Lutterloch converting to make it 10 – 7 with fifteen minutes on the clock.
The remainder of the half, saw the home side repeatedly let the wind take them into Thatcham’s half, so some decent kicking brought a succession of line-outs down the right and into Thatcham’s 22. But the visitors’ line-out held firm, with Smith taking most off the top, although scrums were proving more difficult to hold firm in the mud.
With half an hour gone the Dorset fly half spotted an overlap out wide and planted a finely judged chip for his winger to run in for the score. No conversion, but a lead for North Dorset of 15 – 7 which they took into the break. Dorset resumed their use of the boot, but Thatcham’s defence had been sound, so the second half looked promising for the visitors.
A sense of déjà vu occurred as Thatcham conceded a third try right from the re-start. It was hard to see how the Thatcham defence could melt away so completely with the side chasing the kick off, to see it run back three quarters of the pitch for a score in the corner, well converted to post a formidable 22 – 7 advantage for the home team. It took the wind out of Thatcham’s sails quite literally and North Dorset pressed their advantage, keeping possession through the phases to bulldoze over for a seven pointer to go 29 – 7 up with ten minutes gone. With the bonus point try secured, North Dorset set about keeping Thatcham in their own half. As conditions worsened Thatcham declined to follow Dorset’s lead and use the boot, but instead tried to keep the ball in hand and run it. They succeeded in keeping the lion’s share of possession, but you don’t score points in your own half.
After a good spell of pressure in the Dorset 22 Thatcham were struggling to get over the last 5 metres, but eventually Danny Shaughnessy took a quick tap penalty and dived through for the score, Lutterloch converting to make it 29 – 14.
Thatcham still needed three scores to get back into the game and it looked a tall order with fifteen minutes left. When they did try to use the wind the kicking wasn’t accurate enough and now the farm rich turf was breaking up to make it very heavy underfoot. The last fifteen minutes were frustrating for Thatcham as the home defence stayed resolute. Try what they might, Thatcham were unable to break the line and appeared to run out of ideas as Dorset knew they were home, if not dry!