Amersham and Chiltern 22 Old Centralians 22
AN amazing final quarter display of fighting spirit, never-say-die determination and no little skill enabled Cents to recover from a 22-3 deficit, grab a share of the points and come
within an ace of taking all the honours in this National Three South West clash at Ash Grove, writes Mike Wallace.
The heavy, well-drilled Amersham pack quickly dominated the set scrums and drove prop Stuart Day over after only four minutes from a five-metre lineout.
With the sun and slight slope in their favour Cents hit straight back, tactical kicking taking them deep into Chilts’ territory but came away with only a penalty goal courtesy of centre Liam Hemming.
Chilts immediate reapplied the pressure, forcing errors and a very quickly taken tap penalty caught Cents unprepared.
Number eight Tom Blackburn scampered over near the posts, giving scrum-half Jack Kenyon an easy conversion.
Cents’ scrum continued to be under heavy pressure, often shunted backwards, and only quick heels (including some against the head) by hooker Nathan Stroud, rapidly whipped away by Cents’ number eight Rich Pinkney, provided possession and kept them in the game. But with the conditions favouring the hosts in the second half, the omens were bad.
Amersham restarted as they had in the first half, scoring within five minutes. First Cents missed a glorious chance of a morale-boosting try when the ball was lost over the line in the
Then Chilts hacked the ball downfield with Kenyon just winning the desperate race for the touchdown. Ten hard-fought minutes later Chilts capped a lengthy siege of Cents’ line with centre Dave Skelton squeezing over in the corner. With 55 minutes gone and Amersham cock-a-hoop 22-3 ahead it seemed matters could only get worse for Cents as defensive efforts threatened to take their toll.
But they hadn’t read the script and never gave up trying. The backs ran every scrap of ball the forwards gave them, with Hemming a constant threat and Mike Mathers a rock in midfield, and everyone tackled as though their lives depended on it.
As the third quarter ended Cents finally got the break they deserved. First Hemming rounded off a flowing move to score wide out and then the referee caught up with Chilts’ replacement Ben Owen’s skulduggery and gave him a 10-minute breather.
Inspired by a change in fortunes Cents’ forwards got a second wind and took the fight to their suddenly vulnerable opponents.
They were rewarded when flanker Dan Knapman forced his way over, Hemming converted and Cents had fought their way to 22-15, within a score of parity.
Cents were now in the ascendancy, their mobile forwards stifling Chilts’ attempts to get back in the game and their backs running Amersham ragged.
Something had to give and it was Chilts’ openside flanker George Bartlett, yellow carded for killing the ball in the red zone.
There was a moment of comedy as both number sevens obediently left the field only for Cents’ excellent Dan Knapman to be hastily recalled.
It was as well he returned because in a storming finish he crowned an outstanding
eight-man forward performance with the game’s last try, superbly improved by Hemming to tie the scores at 22-22.
Amersham had a last-ditch, heart-wrenching chance to snatch the game with two minutes remaining but Kenyon missed a highly kickable penalty. Justice was done.
This was a memorable, gutsy performance by Cents. Chilts may have got the try bonus point but the day and the glory belonged to Old Centralians .
AMERSHAM AND CHILTERN: D. John; T.Lloyd; T.Shiel; D. Skelton; A. Bruce; D. Hughes; J. Kenyon; S. Day; B. Allman; G. Doman-Cann; L. Gielens; T. Grammenos; D. Samuels; G. Bartlett; T. Blackburn. Reps: M. Allen; B. Owen; J. Secher.
OLD CENTRALIANS: R. Jones; O. Townsend; L. Hemming; M. Mathers; J. Preece; O. Locke; G. Preece; S. Preece; N. Stroud; S. Fritchley; P. Willetts; J. Phillips; D. Harper; D. Knapman; R. Pinkney. Reps: M. Vye; C. Gwilliam; J. Huxtable.
REFEREE: Max Barnard (RFU)
STAR MEN: Old Centralians: Their pack for turning the game round. Amersham: Livewire scrum-half Jack Kenyon.