Honours even but Thatcham earn three points
By Nick Rance
Thanks to the six nations break and a flooded pitch this was Thatcham’s first outing for three weeks, and sporting their pink change strip they looked lively enough, with a formation not seen since last season.
Mark Smith was back again at no 8, Danny Shaughnessy at 9 and Joe Leadley making a first appearance of the season at stand off. Complimented by the pairing of locks Tim Apperley and George Seymour, this looked from the outset like a unit that could stand up to a big Old Boys pack.
Thatcham bossed most of the first quarter despite gifting three points to the home side from the kick off for not releasing in front of their posts. But it was to be some time before the old boys got back into the Thatcham half as the visitors were winning the up front battle. With options in the lineout, Thatcham drove for the line but were met with a solid Old Boys defence more than once. The visitors moved it through the hands, but a chance was missed on fifteen minutes when they failed to take advantage of a clear overlap. Play had all been in or around the Swindon 22, but Thatcham had nothing to show for it until the twenty minute mark. Stopped on the line once again, James Thorogood, fresh from the bench, stole the ball with his first touch and went over, Danny Shaughnessy converting to make it 7 – 3 to the visitors.
They say you’re at your most vulnerable just after a score and Swindon proved the point by bouncing right back with an opportunist try at the back of a Thatcham scrum from their first sortie into the red zone. The conversion put the home side back in the lead 10 – 7. But Thatcham, quickly resumed the pressure resulting in a Swindon yellow card. Shaughnessy’s penalty attempt came back off the post, but quickly won another and went for the lineout. This time taken by Kanaar-Brown off the top, followed by the drive and Chris Dixon was in for the score. Joe Leadley’s conversion attempt went wide, but Thatcham had regained the lead.
After the low scoring first quarter the last five minutes proved anything but, as the Old Boys snatched back the lead with a good attack and fine run by the left wing cutting through the Thatcham defence for a seven pointer under the posts. It was nip and tuck and Thatcham responded immediately with a strong break from Tim Apperley and a fine off load to put Jamie Evans clear to ground under the posts. Danny Shaughnessy’s conversion sent Thatcham into the break with a slender two point lead, 19 – 17.
As play resumed Thatcham had the better of the early skirmishes, but promising attacks from Joe Leadley and Tim Apperley couldn’t be converted. Play had become more balanced in terms of possession and territory. Swindon had a penalty attempt that failed, but when Thatcham were caught offside midfield, the Old Boys took advantage at the second attempt to regain the narrowest of leads, 20 – 19.
Just over ten minutes after the re-start and Swindon had a scrum near the half way. The ball came loose and Mark Smith was quickest to react with a great pick up. He still had a lot to do, but won the footrace to the line for Thatcham’s fourth and bonus point try. No conversion, but once again the lead changed hands in Thatcham’s favour, 24 - 20.
Finely balanced it continued, until the start of the final quarter when a good passage of play was rounded off by the Swindon flanker, leaving a straightforward conversion for the home side to retake the lead, 27 – 24.
As the clock ran down, neither side managed to threaten the line again, although Thatcham’s Ash Swaisland looked threatening more than once down the left wing. Joe Leadley got the chance to punish a Swindon infringement with a well taken long range penalty to bring the scores level, but with less than five minutes on the clock, Thatcham looked to have blown it as they conceded what looked a simple chance for the Old Boys kicker. Luckily for the visitors the kick went improbably wide. The last few minutes were nervy for both teams, not helped by Butler’s yellow card. But in the finish it was honours even and three valuable points for Thatcham.