IT’S BEEN a difficult few weeks for our rugby sides and the forced break from matches and training seems to have had a detrimental impact on results - with all three teams crashing to defeats on their return to league action.
Amersham & Chiltern 21
Bletchley’s problems haven’t been helped by a number of key players being effected by either illness or injury, and a tough away game on a hard pitch against a high-flying Amersham & Chiltern side wasn’t the ideal game - although they did themselves few favours.
After the frozen weather of the previous fortnight or so, playing conditions never seemed likely to produce a quality rugby spectacle, but it was the hosts who adapted the better of the two sides during the first half of play.
After kicking off Bletchley were left holding on for the opening few minutes as Amersham came out in determined mood - although they were left frustrated by a stubborn away defence up to the challenge of halting the promotion chasers in their tracks. Tim Stobbs was in particularly good form with some excellent try-saving tackles.
With 23 minutes on the clock the hosts’ intense pressure eventually told - a penalty kick giving them a 3-0 lead - but it wasn’t long before Bletchley responded in kind.
A quick break out of a scrum by number nine Cuan McKenzie gave Bletchley the opportunity to score the opening try, but when he was illegally tacked around the neck a penalty awarded - although there was no yellow card for the quality Amersham man. Nevertheless the visitors took their chance to draw level, with Phil Harman keeping a cool head from all of 35-yards out.
And the same man stepped up to the plate again moments later to give Bletchley a narrow 6-3 lead at the mid-way point of the game.
A great catch by Brett Staniford then got Bletchley off and running in the second half as they hoped to set up camp in the Amersham half, but when the ball was turned over it was the hosts who were next on the scoreboard to level the scores.
Only a terrific tackle by Simon Pitfield - who took the Amersham winger into touch short of the try line - kept the hosts from scoring the first try shortly afterwards.
But the tide was starting to turn in Amersham’s favour and when a Bletchley player saw yellow for an infringement, they added another successful penalty to their tally to lead 9-6.
Those few seconds would prove to be a turning point in the game, and it wasn’t long before the hosts seized control - several scrums in the Bletchley 22 eventually led to the Amersham scrum half getting the ball out wide to their winger to run in a try in the corner. The conversion was unsuccessful, but Amersham had a 14-6 lead with 18 minutes remaining.
With Amersham then collecting the restart, they kept the ball well, offloading and denying Bletchley any chance of forcing a turnover.
Adam Griffiths helped to relieve the pressure, but any hopes of the visitors fighting back would soon be quashed in the final 15 minutes of the match when two men were sin binned within two minutes of each other - just after their team had returned to 15 players.
Then to make the final seconds of the game completely farcical, a third Bletchley player was sent for an early bath and Amersham took advantage of their numbers to add a converted try to their score and complete a 21-6 victory.
Just two away wins this season means Bletchley are looking over their shoulder in the South West One East League, but will get the chance to climb to ninth place in the table when they play host to Wallingford on Saturday.
Olney’s promotion charge seems to have hit a brick wall as they fell to fourth place with a heavy defeat at Reading.
The home side were having their president’s day, and boosted by two New Zealanders making debuts for the club, there was terrific support for the Reading team and little for an Olney side short of any match practice.
The first half saw the home side get into top gear and put 30 points on the board during 40 minutes of bruising rugby for the visitors.
However, this season Olney have proved they are no pushovers, and determined not to simply make up the numbers they fought their way back into contention.
Two tries from back rows John Robinson and Cameron Byrne and one conversion by Mark Marwood saw the visitors restore some pride before Reading had the final say in the game with a couple more tries to extend their lead further.
Lowly Reading Abbey visit this weekend and should provide the perfect opportunity for Olney to bounce back with a win - and they will need to improve quickly to get their title chase back on track.
Milton Keynes 6
A surprise defeat at Beaconsfield has seen City drop to fourth place in Southern Counties North ahead of a home game against bottom of the league Chipping Norton - Phil Powell scoring their six points.