BLETCHLEY have done their chances of avoiding the South West 1 East League’s bottom two the world of good with a win as surprising as it was impressive.
Some of the division’s best sides have learnt the hard way that Bletchley are a team to be feared on their day, and after four straight defeats they once again hit top form to seal a morale boosting 17-14 win at Witney, completing a win double over the Oxfordshire side this season.
They did it without captain Carl Miller once again as Brett Staniford deputised for him, although there was a welcome return to the side for Tim Stobbs whose powerful running through the centre of an extremely muddy pitch would prove key to victory.
Bletchley flyhalf Phil Harman kicked a couple of good clearances as Winey got off to a strong start. And the hosts soon forced the ball down between the posts, only for the referee to disallow the score after spotting a forward pass.
Witney were now camped in Bletchley territory and their pressure told through a converted penalty followed by the first try of the afternoon a couple of minutes later to give them an 8-0 lead.
But with positive rucking and running by Staniford and prop Josh Sprules, and some fine offloads from Dagan Probert, Bletchley forced Witney back into their own half and into conceding a penalty which Harman gratefully converted.
Prop Ian Cope was forced off with an injury after that and it looked like it was going to be another frustrating day for Bletchley when the hosts were awarded another penalty just before the interval, and converted to give them an 11-3 half time lead.
Witney had further chances to extend their advantage early in the second half, but an attempted drop goal was missed and all they could manage was another converted penalty to make it 14-3. They would pay for that missed opportunity.
The turning point in the match came when Bletchley won a lineout and were able to free Probert to score. Harman’s conversion was on target and suddenly the game looked a different prospect.
Bletchley were now full of confidence and would have ran in a second try just moments later had Stobbs been more selfish and gone for the line instead of trying to find a pass.
Bletchley new boy Reuben Lewis put in a big crunching tackle to prevent the hosts from scoring on the counter with the game now opened up. Witney were again looking for a stranglehold on the game, but the visitors were still holding firm, and could have scored themselves had Harman found his range with first a drop goal attempt, and then a penalty.
But the breakthrough wasn’t far away and good ball handling from Stobbs and scrum half Ben Robinson helped flanker Simon Pitfield break away to score. The two points were then added by Harman, and suddenly Bletchley were ahead for the first time at 17-14.
Although Witney came back at them, the visitors were able to hold on for the win and will go into Saturday’s game at home to Swanage & Wareham with a lot more confidence.
Olney held on to fourth position in the table thanks to their comfortable 33-10 home win over bottom side Wimborne.
The Dorset side have only one three times all season, and one of those was against Olney, so this time there would be no mistake from the hosts.
After a couple of narrow escapes the Wimborne defence was soon breached by full back Mark Marwood, followed by a second try courtesy of James Moody, with James Hawken converting both.
Ollie Brackenbury ran home the third score when Wimborne had a man in the sin bin and Hawken’s kick saw the hosts lead 21-0 at the break.
An unconverted try gave the visitors some hope, but it was effectively game over when forwards Mo Ormersher and Liam Lancaster added further tries for Olney, with Hawken converting one.
Wimborne added a consolation try in the closing stages, but the bonus point went to Olney who will now be looking to put a run of wins together, and next up they welcome Witney.
Not even high-flying Grove were able to cope with an in-form Milton Keynes who stay fifth in the Southern Counties North league after a 20-10 win.
The visitors scored a penalty to take the lead, but Kieran McConnell got City going with two quick tries - the second of which was converted by Phil Powell.
Simon Kockelbergh added a third try early in the second half and after Grove hit back another Powell penalty saw his side safely to victory.