Rugby round-up: Impressive City close in on leaders

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MILTON Keynes climbed to a season high of second place in the Southern Counties North League on Saturday thanks to a 36-15 home victory over Wallingford.

City now share a record of six wins and one defeat with Beaconsfield, but remain four bonus points adrift of the big-scoring south Bucks side who inflicted their only defeat on the Emerson Valley outfit in September.

Since then they have gone on a four-game winning run in the league, but after a week off face another big test of their title credentials with a difficult trip to Grove – level on 26 points with City in third place.

Victory against Wallingford came relatively easily after an early wobble saw the visitors score the opening try. Two Phil Powell penalties soon got City back on track though as he scored the first six points of his 21 for the day.

However, Wallingford weren’t quite done yet though and they retook the lead with a penalty of their own. But from the restart skipper Richard Hill marched his pack back up the pitch and his forwards took charge.

Wallingford’s cause wasn’t helped by one of their players being shown a yellow card, and from a tap penalty and following scrum close to the line, Stuart Tomkinson charged through and over the line. Powell missed the conversion and the half ended with the home side in control and 11-8 to the good.

Powell missed a penalty attempt early in the second period, and with Wallingford starting to cause a bit of a threat at the other end, it was clear that City needed more points on the board to make sure.

They got those nine minutes into the half when Hill made good metres towards the line and passed over to Kieran McConnell who, with a bit of ball juggling along the way, dived to touch down and Powell converted for a 18-8 lead.

Wallingford were now at sixes and sevens, not able to handle the wave of attacks, and they gave away two further penalties – one right under the posts and the other 35 metres out. But Powell continued his great form with the boot by scoring both and extend their lead further.

Another try followed with full-back Neil Haynes finishing off a fine team move by diving under the posts, with Powell again converting. Wallingford hit back with a converted try of their own, but City wouldn’t be denied the final say as a classic training ground move saw the ball switched from the wing to back inside where Powell collected to score, before his conversion attempt hit the post.

>> Bletchley sit comfortably in mid-table in the South West 1 East league and recorded their fifth win of the season as they edged past Reading Abbey 16-10 after coming from behind.

The visitors scored the opening try on 10 minutes, but Phil Harman soon reduced the deficit with a well taken penalty. Reading Abbey began strongly though and retook the lead through a second try, and this time it was converted for a 10-3 lead.

The visitors were then reduced to 14 men and Dave Coleman kicked the resulting penalty to narrow the gap to four points.

And Bletchley would take the lead not long after as winger Will Garrett produced a moment of real magic to beat three men and touch down. The conversion was kicked by Harman to give the hosts a 13-10 advantage.

The only remaining points also came from the boot of Harman as he kicked another penalty to make sure of the victory.

>> Olney put up a brave fight against title challenging Cheltenham but eventually lost out 22-17, keeping them rooted to the foot of the table with 10 defeats in 11.