Match Report
Berkhamsted School 1st XV vs  Abingdon School
On: Saturday, 13 Sep 2014
Venue: Away

This was a bizarre scoreline in a slightly bizarre game, although, given Abingdon’s 32-31 away win at Teddies last week, perhaps it comes as no real surprise. It was a stop-start sort of game, interrupted by several injuries and yellow cards, and the last 15 minutes took place on an adjacent much smaller pitch, owing to a serious injury to the Abingdon hooker. The dimensions of this pitch threatened to turn a high quality game thus far into a farce, since both fly-halves could clear from one 22m line to the other. The result looks tighter than it probably was: Berkhamsted eased away in the 2nd half and a charged-down kick in front of the posts on the last play distorted the final score.

Berkhamsted scored almost straight from the start. The ball was spun left and a long-pass from Tom ffitch, by-passing Abingdon’s narrow defence, created space for Casey O’Gorman to go over in the corner. Much to everyone’s amazement the referee spotted some prior infringement and awarded Abingdon a scrum on their own 5m line. A magnificent drive by the forwards saw the ball pop out for Captain Matt Pugh to dive over. In fairness to Abingdon, our drive was more than the permitted 1.5m, but after everyone’s bemusement at the original denial of Casey’s try, the decision did not seem altogether unjust, at least to the Berkhamsted touch-line. Oli Green converted from wide out, and Abingdon kicked off, clearly disconcerted at how easily our backs had by-passed their defence and at the ferocity of our subsequent drive. Abingdon worked their way back into the game through some canny turn-overs by their back-row and we went some time without seeing too much of the ball. Their fly-half gave our rush-defence food for thought with some astute kicking and some bullocking runs from their centres got them over the gain-line, resulting in a deserved equalising try. Abingdon’s back three, however, were a clear opportunity for exploitation and some clever generalship by Tom ffitch at 10 again caught out the narrowness of their defence, giving Timi Sanusi two one-on-ones, first with 11 and then 15, before easing round under the posts. Again Oli Green converted. A head injury to Will Hughes after fielding a high ball and a rolled ankle for Ed Tidey caused some disruption before half-time. Oli Green moved to 15, with Tom Day coming on at 9, while Ali Walters moved into the back row, to be replaced by Jonny Thomas-Davies at 2. We faced the second-half breeze and slope with the game very much in the balance.

Abingdon began the second half strongly scoring two tries, but a converted interception try by Casey O’Gorman and an important penalty by Oli Green kept us ahead at 24-19 when a clash of heads left Abingdon’s hooker requiring an ambulance. The sides moved to a smaller pitch where Berkhamsted began strongly. A high tackle on their 22m by an Abingdon prop and a consequent third yellow card of the match for the opposition, led to Matt Pugh opting to scrummage. Two lovely long passes, left to right, first by Tom ffitch and then by Oli Green, coming into the line from 15, released Timi Sanusi on the outside for a text-book try by the 3/4s. Oli Green slotted the conversion from wide-out and followed this with a penalty in front of the posts after Abingdon went off their feet at a ruck. Berkhamsted, 34-19 ahead, now had breathing space, but Abingdon came back strongly to score a converted try of their own with seven minutes to go (34-26). A third Oli Green penalty effectively made the game safe at 37-26, but in the dying seconds a charged-down clearance on half-way with our own full-back in the line, preceded a converted try in front of the post to Abingdon.

Berkhamsted won this game because we were a stronger all-round team, but special mention must go to the front row, who scrummaged ferociously throughout. Oli Green’s place-kicking, punishing some disciplinary indiscretions from their side, probably won us the match. Tom ffitch played with his head up and, for the most part, read the game beautifully. His own contact skills were exemplary. Timi Sanusi is growing in confidence all the time and it was particularly good to see him taking his opponent on on the outside. Two other moments particularly stood out: a bone-shuddering tackle by Ali Walters on the Abingdon No.8 which stopped him in his tracks close to our line, and a magnificent turn-over by Jonny Thomas-Davies, who drove three Abingdon players off the ball, when they seemed to have secured the ball in a threatening position towards the end of the game.