Bletchley 14 Maidenhead 18
THE league leaders left Manor Fields on Saturday afternoon knowing they had been through one hell of a game, but while they kept their place at the top of the pile, Bletchley are starting to look over their shoulder.
Maidenhead eventually emerged as 18-14 winners over a dogged Bletchley who - at least on this display - have no right to be sitting in the bottom three of the South West One East league.
The table does not lie though, and a run of nine defeats from 13 outings is why Bletchley find themselves where they do. The mystery is how they can play so well one week, then so poorly the next.
Perhaps the new year will bring the team more consistency, and the signs are certainly looking good following this gutsy performance after nearly a month without competitive action.
Maidenhead ran out 32-10 winners when the teams met previously back in September, but the return of Carl Miller was a huge boost to Bletchley who seemed to take the away side by surprise, scoring the opening points via the boot of flyhalf Phil Harman.
That penalty was followed up with another moments later as Bletchley opened a 6-0 lead. Maidenhead saw a penalty attempt of their own fall off target, and it wasn’t long before that man Harman was at it again, finding the target for a third time for 9-0.
The hosts continued to control the game and would have run in the first try but for a saving tackle on Tim Stobbs. Instead it was Maidenhead who were next on the board as they kicked a penalty to reduce the lead.
And that seemed to be something of a turning point in the contest as Harman unusually missed a penalty attempt and within minutes his side were punished as Maidenhead broke to score their first try in the corner.
The conversion was missed but the visitors were now in the ascendancy, although the first half drama wasn’t over yet. Just before the interval the hosts were lifted when an off the ball incident led to a Maidenhead player being shown the red card.
However, that dismissal seemed to rally them, and it wasn’t long before they took the lead with a converted try - and after taking the lead for the first time they wouldn’t let it slip.
They may have been 15-9 down but Bletchley remained in defiant mood, and could have forced their way back into the game but for conceding silly penalties which allowed Maidenhead back into Bletchley territory.
A penalty saw Maidenhead extend their advantage, but a nervous finish was on the cards when Bletchley got earned reward for their efforts - Matt Nobes crashing over the line after an excellent lobbed kick from Harman.
The conversion was missed and the visitors held on to claim the win they needed to stay on top of the table - a position they will appreciate that bit more after this game. For Bletchley a must win fixture away to bottom side Wimborne is next up on Saturday.
Swanage & Wareham 24 Olney 14
OLNEY’S season is looking in danger of coming off the tracks slightly, and defeat away at Swanage would have some as a big disappointment.
Tries from centre Chris Parnham and scrum half James Hawken, both converted by the latter, saw Olney go in at the break 14-13 up. But that was as good as it got for the away side as Swanage took charge of the second half to seal a surprise win.
After an excellent first half of the season Olney have fallen well off the title pace in the South West One East league, although they should return to winning ways this Saturday when struggling Oakmedians visit.
Tadley 25 Milton Keynes 17
MILTON Keynes lost further ground on the leaders in Southern Counties North when they crashed to a shock defeat at lowly Tadley.
City are now down to sixth place in the table going into a busy new year after they were made to pay for their mistakes. Two penalties saw them go 6-0 behind inside the first 15 minutes, and the hosts would go on to control most of the opening exchanges.
Tadley made their pressure count towards the end of the first half with a converted try, and the visitors’ only answer was a successful penalty.
A second converted try saw Tadley stretch their lead to 20-3 before City’s fightback began - Kieran O’Connell’s try followed by a Phil Powell kick.
Their hopes of a turnaround grew further when Andy Poole scored the visitors’ second try, again converted.
But those hopes were dashed when Andy Champs received a yellow card late on and Tadley took advantage to score again and complete their win.