Maidenhead RFC 19-20 Bracknell RFC
Bracknell snatched a late win at Braywick Park with a full length of the pitch counter on an emotional day all round for Maidenhead.
Maids dug deep throughout, and overcame a tough first half in which they were forced to play more than half of it with 14 men, due to two yellow cards. But a late second half converted try saw Bracknell leave Braywick with the win and end the home side's chase for second place after Barnstaple secured the play-off spot with a comprehensive win.
The match began with a beautifully observed minutes silence for Maids legend Rene Dance, who sadly passed away last week, with the stands packed throughout.
It was also Maids head coach Russell Bolton’s last home game for the club after four seasons with the club.
The away side started the stronger of the two as their early pressure soon took its toll on Maids. Dave Cole was shown a harsh yellow card early on as Bracknell racked up the penalties, but despite their man advantage struggled to break down a compact Maids defence, with the away side settling for a penalty to open the scoring.
Maids grew into the game and looked to have taken the lead after Andy Berry went over, but the referee deemed there had been a double movement by the number 5 as Bracknell came away with the ball.
But the hosts were not to be denied much longer and Scott Prince, making his 50th appearance for the club was on hand to put the finishing touches to a textbook Maidenhead try. Mike Davies made no mistake with the touchline conversion to give the home side a 7-3 lead.
In what was becoming a stop-start game, Elio Mandozzi was shown a yellow card for a high tackle – yet again putting Maids back down to 14 men – meaning they played with a man disadvantage for 20 minutes of the first half. And much like the first score of the game, Bracknell reduced the lead to one with another penalty.
Despite being a man down, Maidenhead continued to create chances and were rewarded just before half time. Following stoppage for a player Bracknell player receiving treatment, Maids battled away and Sam Churchyard bundled over after a five metre lineout to give Maids the lead at the break. 12-6.
The second half began with some fine defending from Maids but they could do nothing about Bracknell’s first try of the match. A slick offload from the visitors sent Vick Hardwicke away, and a drop of the shoulder saw him sprint free to give the visitors the lead. 12-13.
But Dave Cole, back on the field after a rest, made an instant impact as he powered over with six minutes to go, much to the delight of the home support, as a raucous roar thundered across the stands at Braywick. Mike Davies added another conversion to his tally to make the score 19-13.
But as the clock ticked towards the 80 minute mark, Maids were given the opportunity to grab a bonus point with a five-metre lineout – but the referee, judged that the throw was not straight and in handing the possession back to Bracknell gave the away side their chance – and one that they duly took. A full length of the pitch counter attack ensued, with the ball moving from left to right, before coming back inside as Simon Bayliss ran home. Bracknell nailed the conversion to complete a league double over Maids and end Maidenhead’s chase for second place on Bolton’s last home game for the club.
Maidenhead travel to Brixham for the final game of the season in a bit to secure third place.
Elsewhere, Windsor were crowned Wandworth 6X Southern Counties (North) champions despite losing 28-25 to local rivals Marlow RFC. The bonus point loss was enough to wrap up the league title for Anthony Andrews' men.
For Marlow the result sees them keep their playoff hopes well and truly alive and set up a thrilling end to the season.
Slough RFC could not do Marlow a favour as they fell to a heavy 45-17 defeat to second placed Buckingham.