Mon 09 Dec 2019 15:37

Shire Hall overcame their toughest challenge in weeks winning a game which for a long period looked in doubt.

Shire Hall started the game on fire, scoring within a minute and before Tadley had even touched the ball. A succession of forward carries sucked in the Tadley defence before the backs were unleashed with Dom Boakes starting at 12 ghosting past his opposite number before releasing Rhys Stewart to score in the corner.

After dishing out back to back hammerings, perhaps scoring so early was the worst start possible as Shire Hall may have anticipated another easy day at the office. The rest of the half was to prove anything but straightforward! A shanked penalty in front of the sticks minutes later by Rhys Stewart set the tone for a first half lacking in execution. A series of infringements both in and out of possession allowed Tadley to spend sustained periods in the Shire Hall half and twice they were to capitalise. Firstly, a cross field kick was accurately executed by the experienced Tadley 10 for the right winger to dive on in the corner for an unconverted score, before minutes later a strike move from a scrum deep in Shire’s 22 led to a further converted score.

Half time came with no further scores and Shire trailing 12-5 (incidentally the first time we’ve been behind since the 2nd game of the season). Everybody involved resolved to increase the intensity and accuracy of our play.

The second half was in complete contrast to the first half. The Shire Hall pack played with far more aggression and began to dominate their opposite numbers both in the loose and at the set piece. It was from a 5 metre scrum that Shire Hall cut their arrears as they walked the Tadley pack over their try line with Matt Margot picking up at 8 and diving over. The kick was missed and Shire still trailed, but the momentum was fully with the men in yellow and blue now.

The bench was now emptied and the finishers brought a new level of energy and aggression onto the pitch as the game became more and more niggly. Further strong carrying by the pack and the elusive hip-swerving of Matt Margot repeatedly led Shire Hall up the pitch and provided territory that the backs now took full advantage of.

A half break by Tom Gough as he jinked through the Tadley defence set up Rhys Stewart for his second try out wide to give Shire a 12-15 lead, before replacement Chris Harber barrelled over from short range to give Shire Hall the bonus point and breathing space at 12-22. Alex Webb ran in a try following slick hands by forwards Chris Wiseman and Matt Margot but the crowning glory was Rhys Stewart’s final try. Playing with the advantage in Tadley’s 22, Dom Boakes executed an improvised cross field kick to perfection for Stewart to run onto catch (unfortunately Steph Margot wasn’t present to take notes) and complete his hattrick.

Full time the score was 12-36, which in some ways was flattering following the tough resistance Tadley provided for 60 minutes. The game serves as a warning as to the importance of being 100% focussed, but also to the character of the team who managed to grind out a win and bonus point from a game that might have slipped away in previous seasons.

Matthew Margot was man of the match following a number of line breaks and 19th try of the season. Neil Evans was awarded dick of the day for dropping everything that was thrown at him, however in his absence Rhys Stewart accepted the awared for his inability to land a simple penalty in front of the posts.

The win leaves Shire Hall firmly embedded in the top group of teams in the table and if the current run of form can be maintained they should be pushing for top spot in the new year.

Shire Hall travel to Crowthorne on 4th January for a mid-season friendly.