Shire Hall 18 Littlemore 17

Determined Shire Hall put a dent in Littlemore’s flawless season

Berkshire Shire Hall entertained runaway league leaders Littlemore on a baking hot day at the County Sports Club in Sonning. Littlemore, who are on their way back to the BB&O Premiership, had played 19, won 19, and were looking to keep their run going. Shire Hall were coming to the game off the back of a very close win away at Harwell, and were snapping at the heels of third place Chipping Norton. The home side had a few people playing out of position, and were under no illusions – this was going to be a difficult task.

The baking sun made for an energy sapping game, and with only 2 players on the bench, Shire Hall knew they would need to put in a big shift. And they did. Shire Hall were the first to get on the scoreboard after 5 minutes of controlled pressure. MOTM Stephane Margot slotted over a penalty to open their account.

This was a springboard for Shire Hall’s confidence, and led to a very prosperous opening 30 minutes. Shire Hall’s first try came from a deft chip and gather from Fly half Dave Tridgell before kicking through into space. The centres followed up with more neat footwork before Stephane Margot dived over the try line.
Littlemore almost hit back immediately, as forward phases led to a Littlemore player crashing over Shire Hall’s try line, but the referee deemed it held up. The pressure was relieved and Shire Hall managed to clear the danger.

The set piece was working well, and the forwards controlled the tempo of the game. The next try came from good forward play, as hooker Jack Proctor scooped the ball off the floor, passing to Captain Rich Clarke who fixed his man and shipped it out to Chris Walker, who had the pace to finish in the corner. Stephane missed the conversion, but the score sat at an unlikely 15-0.

Littlemore were pushing hard, and were a constant threat when they got the ball out to the backs. Eventually, fluid Littlemore hands, a subtle dummy and pace out wide led to a score for the visiting side just before the half-time whistle. The conversion was successful and Shire Hall went into the second half with a somewhat bewildering 15-7 lead.

The second half was a weathering of the storm. Shire Hall had to work hard to preserve their lead and needed their fair share of luck to do it. On a couple of occasions, Littlemore were in good scoring positions, only to lose the ball forwards at key moments. One scoring opportunity was spoilt by the last ditch tackle of Chris Harber as a Littlemore player was about to ground the ball, ripping it from his grasp.

Shire Hall’s resistance eventually broke, and Littlemore dotted down for a second half score, going unconverted. Shire Hall were tiring and went down to 14 men after a yellow card for a high tackle. Littlemore capitalised on the 10-minute sin bin and scored another unconverted try to bring the score to 15-17.

Shire Hall dug deep and found a second wind, tightening up, keeping it simple. With sustained possession they marched up the pitch to within 10 metres of the Littlemore try line. Littlemore infringed on a resulting breakdown and Shire Hall were awarded a penalty.

Stephane Margot stepped up to take the kick with only 5 minutes left of play. The ball went sailing between the uprights and Shire Hall re-took the lead at 18-17. Shire Hall saw out the last few minutes with patience and composure. When the referee called last play and the ball was booted off the park, a huge roar went up from the home side and the gathered crowds of VPs on the touchline.
Against all the odds, and with a bit of luck, Shire Hall broke Littlemore’s unbeaten season and secure a guaranteed third place finish with the win. Topping off a great season from the Sonning outfit.

MOTM: Stephane Margot
DOTD: Sam Watkins (default option!)

Selection for Saturday 8th April vs Littlemore (Home) (VP Lunch)

Opposition: Littlemore
Competition: League
Venue: Home
Kick off: 15:00
Meet time: 13:30

Players that arrive later than the meet time will be asked to donate £5 to the tour fund
Dress: Number 1s
Carried item: Mini Eggs
1. Neil Evans
2. Jack Proctor
3. Matthew Margot
4. Andrew Carson
5. Chris Harber
6. Tim Holmes
7. Richard Clarke (c)
8. David Lloyd-Williams
9. Sam Watkins
10. Dave Tridgell
11. Chris Merrick
12. Stephane Margot
13. Rhys Thomas
14. Lenny Pitt (if available)
15. Rhys Stewart
16. Geoff O’Brien

Selection for Saturday 1st April vs Harwell (Away)

Opposition: Harwell (OX11 0RL)
Competition: League
Venue: Away
Kick off: 3:00
Meet time at the club: 12:30
Meet time at Harwell: 13:45

Note: Earlier meet time at the club is due to the M4 being closed between J12 and J13. Please make sure you give yourself enough time if going direct!
Players that arrive later than the meet time will be asked to donate £5 to the tour fund

Dress: Number 1s
Carried item: EU Flag

1. Neil Evans
2. Jack Proctor
3. Matt Margot (c)
4. Ollie Homan-Green
5. David Lloyd-Williams
6. Dave Holmes
7. Ben Megson
8. Tim Holmes

9. Sam Watkins
10. Dave Tridgell
11. Rhys Thomas
12. Steph Margot
13. Kieran Jenkins
14. Rhys Stewart
15. Luke Jellicoe

16. Chris Merrick
17. Eric Murray

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

Selection for Saturday 11th March vs Chipping Norton (Home)

Opposition: Chipping Norton
Competition: League
Venue: Home
Kick off: 2:00
Meet time at the Club: 12.30
Players that arrive later than the meet time will be asked to donate £5 to the tour fund.
Dress: Number 1s
Carried item: A 13mmx10mm spanner (ask Phil..)

1. Neil Evans
2. Jack Proctor
3. Matt Margot
4. Chris Harber
5. Ollie Holman-Green
6. Tim Holmes
7. Rich Clarke (C)
8. David Lloyd-Williams
9. Luke Barefoot
10. Dave Tridgell
11. Darren Choules
12. Chris Walker
13. Rhys Thomas
14. Kieran Jenkins
15. Steph Margot

16. Ben Megson
17. Geoff O’Brien
18. Rhys Stewart
19. Chris Merrick