01:15PM, Thursday 20 January 2022
Having lost their fair share of matches by narrow scorelines this season, Maidenhead’s director of rugby Myke Parrott was absolutely delighted to see them beat Tring with the final play of the game on Saturday.
Having dominated the first half, Maids came off for the interval with only a measly five-point (22-17) lead for their efforts.
Captain Ben Mitchell had cut through Tring’s defences on three occasions and the hosts had looked far more threatening with ball in hand, however, Tring’s dominance at set pieces meant they stayed within touching distance, and they had the better of a scrappier, more error-strewn second half. That is until Maids forced a scrum close to the visitors’ line and, after a series of ball carries close to the whitewash, Alex French finally barged his way over with the clock having ticked past 80 minutes. Ed Keohane then kept his cool to send over the winning conversion.
Maids’ also beat Sutton & Epsom on the final play before Christmas and Parrott is hoping it’s a habit the side can keep.
“I’d much rather come out on the right end of those rather than losing them,” he said.
“I’m super chuffed for the boys as they deserve it so much. They’ve been working so hard and sometimes, when you just look at results, and think there’s no relegation, it looks like they’ve chucked the towel in and believe me, they’re do the absolute opposite.
“I’m so proud of the way they corrected the scrum today, which has been an area of weakness for us. “They kept fighting for each other and they’ll keep developing and getting better and better.”
While Maids appeared to have the legs, and nous, to break through Tring’s back line, they struggled on set pieces, with several scrums and lineouts being taken against the head. It’s something Parrott and the coaching team are working on with the players, and, even if it won’t happen overnight, he’s determined they’ll eventually have the best set piece in the league.
“They dug in and it’s what we asked them to do, to never stop fighting,” he said. “When they’ve got that shirt on, they never give up.
“We saw that today and I’m just so proud of them. We played brilliantly in the first half, but fair play to Tring, they changed things tactically and put us under more pressure in midfield. I don’t think we were able to get past two phases until the last play, when we won it.
“It’s a learning curve again, but our shape is now looking good with our big ball carriers.
“They got all of their points just playing off set pieces, a penalty, a catch, a drive. We were the side playing the rugby and if we can just get our set pieces right.
“We have a lot of young lads in the squad, and I’ve told them our target is to have the best set piece in the league. That might take us two or three seasons but that’s what we’re working towards, and we’ll get there. I’ve told them to dare to bet against me because we will get it right.”
With the centre partnership between Ben Mitchell and Niall Crosley flourishing the foundation is now set for an improved second half of the season and this win has given Maids a little added impetus going into Saturday’s game at Tunbridge Wells. Saturday’s victory has lifted them up to 11th in the table.
“We’ve had a lot of criticism this year for various reasons, and it’s been hard,” said Parrott. “We’ve changed the defensive system and the players are grafting hard on Tuesday and Thursday nights to ensure that’s working.
“You see what it means to the supporters to see them going out there and fighting like that. We’re building a foundation and our target is to finish as high as we can so we can look ahead to next season with confidence.
“There’s a lot to do recruitment wise and not necessarily just with players.
“We had a fantastic forwards session with London Scottish on Thursday night, can we develop that relationship and offer some other things that will enable the players to progress.
“It’s a great start to 2022 but we’re not finished yet, there’s plenty more to come from this group.”
Maidenhead and Slough travellers have long been waiting for the arrival of Crossrail to whisk them quickly into central London.