Bletchley make hard work of Casuals win

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Bletchley booked their spot in the next round of the Lewis Shield, but needed extra time to eventually see off Northampton Casuals.

A spirited fight back from the visitors saw Casuals go from 19-0 down to 38-33 up before Bletchley turned up the heat to run out 53-38 winners in overtime.

With only two minutes on the clock, Phil Harman charged down a Casuals kick in his own half and then found the strength to evade the chasing players to score out wide. He converted his own try and Bletchley were 7–0 up very early on in the game.

Just five minutes later and Bletchley doubled their try count when Dean Williams drove over to score. The conversion in the windy conditions was unsuccessful, but Bletchley had consolidated their lead at 12–0.

Bletchley then had to spend a spell of the game defending as Casuals began to work their way back into the game. Some excellent tackles were needed to keep Casuals from making the most of their possession and Kyle Gibbings was leading from the front in that department.

It was not long before Bletchley turned defence into attack and scored their third try of the afternoon in the 15th minute of play through Tom Hannell. The try was typical of the tries Bletchley’s supporters have begun to expect from their pack over recent weeks, with the driving maul from a lineout forcing their way over the whitewash. Harman’s conversion meant Bletchley should have been sitting on a comfortable 19–0 lead.

Despite having little territory or possession in the first quarter of the game, Casuals dug deep and began to exert some pressure of their own. They made the most of the scraps that came their way and when Bletchley made an error in attack, they capitalised big time. Quick thinking and hands from the Casuals’ full back ensured the visitors got the ball moving quickly through their backs and out wide to their winger who in turn showed a clean pair of heels to score under the posts. With a successful conversion, Casuals had reduced the deficit to 19–7 with 23 minutes played.

Three minutes later and Casuals scored their second try of the game in exactly the same way, with the same player dotting the ball down. This time the conversion missed, but Casuals were only seven points behind now.

Bletchley almost added their fourth try on the half hour mark, but Adam Fox was deemed to have been held up. No matter, the Bletchley pack made the most of their 5m scrum and exerted a lot of pressure to give scrum half Kev Turnbull plenty of time to feed the ball out to his backs and eventually Dan Reed went over to score. Harman converted and Bletchley’s lead was 26-12.

Casuals had the final say of the half as their left winger scored his hat trick in the 39th minute of play. An unsuccessful conversion saw Bletchley go into half time with a

26–17 lead.

Bletchley started the second half with the same determination they had started the first. It was only excellent defensive play by Casuals that kept the home side from scoring from a driving maul. Play was held up as Dougie Webster was treated for a head injury, but then Bletchley got back into their stride quickly to score through John Kirwan and take their lead to 33–17 after eight minutes of play.

Neither side made any useful breaks in the next quarter of the match, but then the game turned completely on its head and Casuals found a way to break through the Bletchley defence to score three unanswered tries. With 36 minutes played, Casuals were in front for the first time in a game Bletchley should have put to bed much earlier. With the score line at 38-33 in Casuals’ favour, the Bletchley supporters had every right to feel a little twitchy.

Bletchley had a glimmer of hope with a Casuals’ error from the restart kick. Keeping possession well, the home side worked their way into the Casuals 22 and were rewarded with a penalty kick. With a try needed to draw level, Bletchley kicked to touch and set up a driving maul and went over the line. The referee gave a held up decision and Bletchley had to go again. Another penalty from the scrum was kicked to touch and once again Bletchley set up the maul. This time Chris Coussells was successful and Bletchley had drawn level. The conversion went wide and with the scores at 38 points apiece, the referee blew for full time and as a result extra time.

Once again Bletchley started the brighter of the two sides and with four minutes played, Glen White charged down a clearance kick in Casuals’ 22 to score. Harman converted and Bletchley were back in front 45–38.

The last act of the first period of extra time saw Reed score his second try of the afternoon after a lovely off load by Jamie Parker. Bletchley went into the break

50–38 up.

Bletchley pressed hard for another try, Simon Pitfield coming close after some good support play, but it was Harman who extended his team’s lead with a well taken drop goal to put Bletchley into a 53–38 lead with seven minutes left to play.

Despite making an amazing come back in the game earlier, Casuals were clearly tired and although they worked hard, they had no answer to Bletchley’s determined defensive work.