Match Report
Berkhamsted School 1st XV vs  Stamford
On: Saturday, 11 Nov 2017
Venue: at Home

BERKHAMSTED 19 STAMFORD 19

The form-guide suggested that this would be another game too close to call - and so it proved. Both teams will look back with some regret for not making more of their opportunities, so probably a draw was a fair result.

Berkhamsted, playing down hill in the first half, were in almost complete ascendancy for the first 15 minutes, during which time Stamford struggled to get out of their own 22m area. We went through our phases and battered at the Stamford line, but the away defence was resolute. Stamford, in turn, struggled to keep hold of the ball or to make any distance with clearance kicks, and were kept under almost constant pressure. Even so, it was obvious that Stamford's big pack were winning their first phase ball cleanly and putting our own under severe pressure: line out ball was occasionally scrappy and we were finding it difficult to go forward off the back of the scrummage. The longer the game went on, the more evident this was, There were even two taken against the head during this period.

After 20 mins or so, Stamford did manage to get some length on a clearance and a knock-on at the back gave them field position, from which they were able to mount pressure. From a scrum close to the Berkhamsted line, the No.8 broke towards his own put-in, and was driven over ( 0-5). The game was now more even, but 10 mins before half-time a cleverly weighted kick for the winger James Lewis saw the latter taken out in the air by 14, who was carded. The referee went back for an earlier off-side closer to the posts, and fly-half Josh Barton reduced the areas to 3-5. On the stroke of half-time, an identical cross-kick was fielded by Lewis, who stepped inside to score. Barton's conversion gave the home side a five point lead on half-time (10-5).

The second half was full-on. Playing up the slope against a heavier pack was beginning to take its toll. After 7 mins of the second half Stamford forced their way over from a scrum-5 to the right of the posts, with a simple conversion putting them ahead at 10-12. The game continued to be evenly contested, but one sensed that Stamford were now more on the front foot and they were beginning to make inroads in midfield. It would be imperative for the home side to claim the next score - which they duly did, after 20 mins. A Stamford infringement in the middle of the pitch 40m out was bravely taken on by Josh Barton to give his side the lead at 13-12, but 3 mins later a Stamford breakaway and a chip through led to a card for the Berkhamsted full-back for obstruction, and a penalty try. Whether you thought it harsh or fair probably depended on your colours, but Stamford were now 13-19 up, and, with both teams tiring on a heavy surface, it looked a winning lead.

In the last 10 mins, however, the boys showed a lot of heart. Two difficult but kickable penalties were awarded to Berkhamsted, from neither of which Barton shied away, slotting the first from wide left and the second from wide right. 5/5 kicks in a tight game, of which only one was straightforward, says a lot about this young man's 'ticker', to use one of coach Mahoney's favourite rugby expressions. No doubt, his mentor from the Saracens academy set-up, who was watching the game, was of a similar opinion.

Dick Mowbray