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.