All posts by Andy C

Berkshire Shire Hall 26 – 24 Chipping Norton

Berkshire Shire Hall welcomed Chipping Norton for the first of the play-off fixtures in a must win game if Shire Hall had any chance of finishing third. Shire Hall headed into the game on a run of four defeats but were confident of a good result building on this season’s strong home form.

Shire Hall got off to a slow start for the second week running and conceded an early try. Shire were unable to get any consistent possession in the early stages of the game and were making sloppy mistakes. Chipping Norton capitalised on the poor start and punished Shire Hall with another score.

Following a talking to from captain Richard Clarke, Shire Hall needed to rally to have any chance of saving the game. A driving 5-man line-out caught Chippy off guard and stormed 40 yards up the pitch, the ball was recycled and Matthew Margot was able to just get the ball down over the line to pull one back for the home side.

Some more poor defensive work allowed Chipping Norton to re-open the gap up to 17-5, a second dressing down was dished out. As the first half drew to a close Chris Harber went on one marauding run through the centre, slowed down looked for an offload and then stormed off again and broke several more tackles. The forwards carried the ball round the corner for several phases from the resulting break down before Tim Holmes saw an opening and dived over the line. Stephane Margot converted reducing the deficit to 17-12.

Shire Hall came out in the second half a different side, the ball retention was improved and defence more aggressive. The pressure was building and Shire Hall thought they were over the line when Jack Proctor crashed through but the ref called it short, Shire kept calm and Matthew Margot was able to crash over from the next phase of play. Rhys Stewart converted to give the home side a 19-17 lead.

It felt from here there was only one side going on to win the game, Chipping Norton were tiring and Shire Hall were playing their rugby in the opposition half. However Chipping Norton were awarded a free kick inside their own 22 and quickly swung the ball across the pitch scoring a breakaway under the post. At 24-19 Shire Hall had 10 minutes left to save the game.

In previous seasons, heads may have dropped but this bunch of players were confident of victory, Shire Hall were awarded a scrum five metres out with a couple of minutes to play. This was likely going to be the last chance to salvage the game. The forwards got a little shove on in the scrum and David Lloyd-Williams picked up from the back of the scrum, a good forward carry put Chipping Norton on the back foot and Chris Harber was then able to punch through the defence and level the match. Rhys Stewart kept calm and slotted the conversion giving Shire Hall a 26-24 lead.

Chipping Norton kicked the resulting kick off into touch and it allowed the Shire Hall forwards to kill the remaining 30 seconds on the clock securing a massive win.

Tries: Matthew Margot x2, Tim Holmes, Chris Harber
Conversion: Stephane Margot, Rhys Stewart x2

Berkshire Shire Hall 27 – 3 Chipping Norton

MATCH REPORT

Shire Hall welcomed Chipping Norton to the Berkshire County Sports Ground on Saturday looking to maintain their 100% home record and cement their position as 3rd in the table.
Chipping Norton who won by a large margin in the away fixture might have expected another easy ride when they kicked an early penalty to take a 3-0 lead on 5 minutes. This was not to be the case as a Shire Hall pack who were dominant in the set piece were able to take control for the remaining 75 minutes.
A rolling maul on 10 minutes marched the Chippy pack from the 22 to their own goal line and from the ensuing phase play Andy Carson crashed his way over in the corner for an unconverted try (5-3). Rhys Stewart slotted a penalty over on 15 minutes to bring the score to 8-3 and it was his clever chip through on 25 minutes that forced the Chippy full back to take the ball over his own line for a Shire Hall 5 metre scrum. The Shire scrum which dominated all day was able to walk the opposition over their line with David Lloyd Williams controlling at the base before grounding for a converted try (15-3).
The remainder of the first half and start of the second half remained an attritional affair with most of the play taking place between the 22’s. It was on 60 minutes with Chipping Norton reduced to 14 men (yellow card) that Shire Hall struck again. Taking advantage of the extra man Shire Hall camped in the Chipping Norton 22 and after a series of tight phases the defence was eventually unlocked when the ball was spun wide and Chris Walker’s looping miss pass was dotted down in the corner by Rhys Stewart, 20-3.
Shire Hall now chased the bonus point try and with 5 minutes to go they secured it. After another prolonged period of pressure on the Chipping Norton line the irrepressible Jack Proctor eventually breached the defence taking two men with him before somehow grounding the ball (no TMO was on hand to examine claims of a double movement), 27-3. Shire Hall almost had time to add one more try, however Lenny Pitt was adjudged to have just been put into touch (highlighted by Shire Hall’s very own TMO, line judge Phil Merrin) before dotting down. Final score 27-3.
 
Whilst the scoreline suggests a one sided affair Chipping Norton were competitive throughout and always looked a threat in open play. It was testament to Shire Hall’s 80 minute performance that they were able to control the game and nullify opposition’s attacking threats.
Jack Proctor was awarded Man of the Match for his strong running and physical scrummaging (labels that could be applied to every forward), whilst Neil Evans was deemed DOTD for his attempted cameo at scrum half.