Last gasp penalty gives Bletchley away draw

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BLETCHLEY may have left Witney on Saturday still searching for their first away win of the season, but they did dig deep to earn a very creditable draw in the South West 1 East league.

The two valuable points earned keeps them in eighth place in the table, but the gap to Marlow in seventh is now just one point after they lost to Reading.

The pitch and weather were not at all conducive to running rugby, although both sides gave it a fair crack in the first half. And Bletchley opened the scoring after two minutes when the visitors were awarded a penalty in front of the posts and flyhalf Kev Turnbull wasted no time in taking the three points on offer.

Bletchley dominated the first 20 minute as the weather conditions deteriorated. However, despite playing a lot of rugby in Witney’s 22, they were unable to extend their narrow lead. Adam Griffiths came the closest to scoring, but the home side’s scrambled defence held firm.

Eventually Witney managed to get some valuable possession of their own and worked their way into Bletchley’s 22 with 24 minutes on the clock. In due course their tenacity paid off and they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts, converted to level the score at 3-3.

Shortly before half time, Witney doubled their score with another penalty kick. This followed a strange decision by the referee to yellow card a Bletchley player after Dempsey made a pile driver of a tackle on a Witney player who fell backwards and hit another man in the process.

The referee deemed this to be dangerous play by the uninvolved Bletchley player and he was sent off for 10 minutes to stand in the rain with the 30 brave Bletchley supporters lining the pitch. The following penalty conversion gave the hosts a 6-3 lead at the break.

Only an excellent tackle from Carl Miller kept the home side from scoring a try early in the second half. Miller’s strength was rewarded with a penalty for Bletchley and the visitors made the most of the kick to get out of their own half.

The weather worsened as the half went on and the light became almost non-existent. With any match abandoned after 60 minutes of play, the score would stand, so Bletchley tried hard to get back on level terms with Witney just in case the referee made that decision.

Dagan Probert was held up over the line as Bletchley’s scrum marched the opposition backwards. Unfortunately the visitors could not make the five metre scrum count and Witney managed to clear the ball out of their 22.

The play matched the weather for the last quarter of the game, and despite Bletchley’s attacking play, Witney held firm. It looked as though another away game would end in defeat for Bletchley.

But the visitors were rewarded for their effort with a last play penalty almost right in front of the posts. John Kirwan stepped up and slotted the ball over to give Bletchley a well-deserved draw and two very welcome league points.

After a week’s break from league action, Bletchley return on December 8 with a home clash against high-flying Old Centralians.