French scores from final play as Maidenhead defeat Tring at the death

Maidenhead 29, Tring 27

For the second home game in succession, Maidenhead scored with the final play of the game as they beat Tring 29-27 in another thrilling encounter at Braywick Park.

A few weeks ago, Maids were rescued by a Prince, as Drew Prince darted over to clinch a 24-20 win over Sutton and Epsom.

Fast forward a month and a bit and Maids gave the Braywick Park faithful their money’s worth again as Alex French bundled his way over underneath the posts in time added on, leaving Ed Keohane with the simple, yet hugely pressurised task, of slotting the extras to confirm a 29-27.

They just about deserved it on the balance of play, having taken the game to their visitors in the first 40 minutes. The hosts scored three well-worked tries, with Niall Crosley and captain Ben Mitchell showing an excellent understanding of each other’s games, with the former setting up the latter for two of his hat-trick of tries.

Tring, who sit four places above Maids in the table and have a healthy points advantage over them, looked solid in the opening stages. Dominating at set pieces, particularly the scrum, they set about forcing Maids back from the opening minutes and it was no surprise to see them take the lead in the sixth minute. Having held the ball well following a series of rolling mauls, they kicked wide to the corner where Conor Graney mis-fielded under pressure, presenting Nick Avery with the chance to pounce on the loose ball and score in the corner.

The try didn’t set the tone for the first half, however, as Maids responded immediately and set about exploiting some of Tring’s weaknesses in the back line. The visitors failed to deal with a long punt up field and, a couple of missed passes and fluffed clearances later and Maids had the ball. They recycled it for their captain who wasn’t in the mood to be denied and he crashed over in the far corner.

Maids then took control of the game for 20 minutes and might have been out of sight but for the perseverance of their visitors and a couple of unfortunate knock ons. In the 18th minute they broke again through Crosley, who offloaded at the perfect moment to send Mitchell scampering through and under the posts for his second. Graney slotted the extras to hand Maids a 12-5 lead.

Tring levelled soon after, capitalising on their dominant pack to push the Maids’ scrum back over their own line and Archie James fell on the loose ball to score very much against the run of play. Alex Harrison converted to make it 12-12.

Again Maids cancelled out the score immediately, Crosley breaking from inside his own half before finding support on his shoulder from Mitchell who again received a perfect pass to run in his hat-trick try on the half-hour. A conversion, and subsequent penalty from Graney gave Maids a handy 22-12 lead heading towards half-time, but just when it seemed the hosts would take a comfortable lead into the break, Tring grabbed their third try of the afternoon with Ted Stanford finishing off in space after Maids’ bodies had been draw in to defend at the ruck. Crucially, Harrison missed his conversion to leave Maids with a 22-17 lead at half-time and the expectation they’d have more opportunities to exploit Tring’s fragile looking backline in the second half.

However, a much cagier game ensued after the interval, with Maids’ attacking intent hampered by a couple of yellow cards. In the 57th minute Tring edged in front after a couple of lucky bounces presented Oliver Breeny with the opportunity to run in unopposed under the posts (22-24). Harrison then swung over a penalty to hand the visitors a 27-22 lead and it felt very much as though momentum was swinging their way as well. When Tring were awarded another very kickable penalty with five minutes to play it seemed the game was up, but Harrison’s kick faded wide of the posts and Maids were given a sliver of an opportunity and boy did they take it.

They managed to get the ball down field from a Keohane kick and a Tring infringement gave them a scrum and possession in their opponents’ 22. They’d been bullied and pushed around in the scrum all afternoon, but, when they needed to get a set piece right, they did. They pressed for the line a couple of times before the ball was recycled for French who, with numbers at his back, drove over the line under the posts to the frenzied elation and relief of those in the stands. The scores were level but, as the crowed hushed themselves into silence, Keohane lofted his kick through the posts to seal a victory based on character, perseverance, and plenty of skill.

The win lifts Maids above Tunbridge Wells, who enjoyed an unexpected 25-23 win at Brighton this afternoon. Maids will visit them next week in what promises to be another close encounter.

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