07:00PM, Saturday 09 September 2017
Maidenhead RFC 41, Cleve RFC 39
Maidenhead secured their first victory in the South West Premier following a breathless match against visitors Cleve with the teams sharing 12 tries but the hosts narrowly earning the honours.
Maids’ biggest weapon was their scrum which they used to devastating effect, especially as the match wore on and Cleve tired.
Flanker Will Macaulay was the chief recipient of this dominance, touching down three times as Maids pushed back their opponents at will.
The new front row which includes Mark and Andy Darlington, plus Sam Hallett in the second row, have combined with Maids’ already powerful back row options from last season to make this setpiece something which will threaten most teams.
Yet, for all this power and Maids’ possession and phase-building, they almost came unstuck after missing crucial one-up tackles and dropping the high ball especially from the restart.
The match began with a bang as four tries came in the first 18 minutes and then two more were to follow in the remainder of the half to give Cleve a narrow 22-19 advantage at the break.
Maids’ tries came from Macaulay, Will Cadden and fly-half Will Runciman.
The second half – which was played mostly in heavy rain and with thunder and lightning fit for a Shakespearean drama – also saw six more tries, however the pace and frenetic nature of proceedings died down as Maids tried to get back to basics and play to their obvious strengths.
Macaulay bagged two more touchdowns from the back of the scrum, while No.8 Ryan Long also nipped over the line in the slip stream of the pack.
Maids trailed 36-26 at one stage, but had enough confidence in their abilities and fitness to push Cleve all the way to the whistle.
Cleve, who have the talent to score from all over the park and are a strong counter-attacking team who find, and make the most of, any cracks in the defence or individual errors, were the last to score with a Nathan Huntley penalty to reduce the deficit to two points with five minutes remaining.
But Maids then took control of possession to run down the clock and secure an enthralling and exhausting victory.
On Saturday, Maids are away to undefeated Dings Crusaders.
Maidenhead RFC: Jansen, Roddick, Keohane, Hannigan, Burnett, Runciman, Hill; Parrott, M Darlington, A Darlington, Churchyard, Hallet, Cadden, Macaulay, Long. Subs: jones, Lavin, Finnie.
Maids points scorers: Tries: Macaulay (3), Cadden, Runciman, Long. Conversions: Keohane, Runciman, Finnie (2), Penalties: Finnie.
Full match report and reaction in Thursday’s Maidenhead Advertiser.
South West Premier results:
Bournemouth 23, Bracknell 20
Brixham 20, Camborne 21
Hornets 6, Dings Crusaders 39
Ivybridge 29, Exmouth 40
Maidenhead 41, Cleve 39
Newbury Blues 23, Lydney 7
Newton Abbot 54, Weston-s-Mare 5
Swindon 15, Marlow 9
Having lost by seven points in their South West ! East opener last week, Marlow followed that disappointment up with a six-point setback at Swindon.
Reading Abbey 17, Windsor 14
Windsor began their Southern Counties North campaign with a three-point loss at Reading Abbey, both of the teams having been relegated at the end of last season.
Drifters 6, Stow 30
Promoted Drifters were given a lesson in finishing by visitors Stow in their first Southern Counties North match of the season.
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Hundreds of students across East Berkshire and South Bucks collected their results on Thursday, August 16
Our reporting team spoke to students in Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead throughout the morning with the latest reaction, stories, photos and pass rates from schools across the area.