Rugby: Unlucky Bletchley pay the penalty in narrow home defeat

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BLETCHLEY put up a brave fight against Coney Hill on Saturday, but ultimately came up short and suffered a fourth South West 1 East league defeat of the season.

Their 27-24 loss came in front of almost 200 spectators who turned out for Bletchley’s Late Summer Lunch, with all club members, former players and guests getting together for an afternoon meal and mini beer festival at Manor Fields.

That support almost inspired the home team to a sensational victory, but in the end they had to make do with two bonus points after missing a couple of late penalty chances to snatch a draw.

The game couldn’t have started better for Bletchley and their supporters as Paul Sherriff touched down after just three minutes of play following a good passing move involving Adam Dempsey and Kevin Turnbull. Phil Harman’s difficult conversion attempt went wide.

But that was the wake up call Coney Hill needed and they retained possession and territory for the next 15 minutes. Bletchley kept them out for a while, but eventually their resistance was broken and the visitors scored their first converted try to take the lead.

Coney Hill’s set-piece was working well and it was from a scrum in Bletchley’s 22 that they extended their lead with a second converted try after 28 minutes. And things got worse for the hosts when Coney Hill ran in a third converted try to take a 21-5 half time lead.

Bletchley almost broke through to reduce the deficit with good play between Sherriff and Will Garrett. The latter found Steve Allen with a pass that was adjudged forward and a promising move was brought to a halt, much to the frustration of the home crowd and players.

However, it didn’t take Bletchley long to get back on the scoreboard after the break as Allen and Peters combined well to get the much needed score after John Kirwan had gone close to touching down just moments earlier. Harman converted and Bletchley were back in the game.

Three minutes later and Bletchley were at it again when Tom Hannell took a quick tap penalty which caught Coney Hill napping, and the recycled ball allowed Adam Dempsey to power through and touch down to make it 21-17.

Bletchley continued to look the better side, but after a few handbags were fought over, it was the visitors who scored next as a penalty allowed them to extend their lead by a further three points.

However, Bletchley drew level in fantastic fashion with 15 minutes left on the clock when Peters forced a knock-on and Harman wasted no time in picking the ball up and charging under the posts before Coney Hill knew what had hit them. He then picked himself up and converted to make it 24 apiece.

But the visitors forged their way in front again a few minutes later with what proved to be the decisive penalty of the game, controversially awarded against Dempsey despite the Coney Hill player not releasing the ball.

Bletchley had their own penalty chances to draw level once more just after the restart, but with just three minutes to play Harman’s kick went wide and Coney Hill survived.

Harman’s next chance was closer to the posts with barely a minute left on the clock, but that kick again missed the target, and after another ambitious drop goal attempt from halfway fell short, the visitors escaped with the victory.

With Newbury Blues losing, the two bonus points actually lifted Bletchley one place to 10th in the South West 1 East league table ahead of a trip to bottom side Swanage & Wareham this Saturday.