Datchworth close to upset

Old Ashmoleans 14 Datchworth 10 Datchworth were left them wondering what might have been as they drifted to defeat against London 4 NW league leaders Old Ashmoleans at Fir Farm on Saturday. The first twenty minutes was all green with the forwards dom

Old Ashmoleans 14

Datchworth 10

Datchworth were left them wondering what might have been as they drifted to defeat against London 4 NW league leaders Old Ashmoleans at Fir Farm on Saturday.

The first twenty minutes was all green with the forwards dominating at the scrum and line-out. The defence was first class with hooker Rob Botterman, his back row, and centres James Watt and Ian Reid turning over any phases of play Old Ashmoleans managed to string together.

This constant pressure and continual offloads in the tackle put the undefeated home side on the back foot and a well worked maul allowed prop Sam Hart to push over for the first score of the game. Tom Wood calmly slotted the conversion, to put Datchworth 7-0 up.

The hosts came back strongly with the number eight making powerful breaks and valuable yardage. Datchworth managed once again to turn over the ball whenever Ashmoleans got close, until a penalty was given against a stranded winger for not releasing. The opposition captain immediately signalled for the posts and his kicker duly took the points.

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Datchworth had a good number of scoring opportunities, but the backs never seemed to get the opportunity to show their skills as quick ball was spoiled by the Ashmoleans back row and scrum half.

Reid and full-back Barry Malone made good yards when they were given space, and Marc Bush produced his standard dazzling breaks but they couldn't get close enough for another score.

A penalty enabled the visitors to stretch their lead to 10-3 but this was cancelled out by a reply from the home side - Datchworth went into the break 10-6 in front.

The half time talk was of the expected barrage from the home side, and all players knew the first 15 minutes would determine the rest of the game. A reshuffle in the backs saw the experienced Tim Day come on at full-back, with Barry Malone back in the centre in place of the injured Watt.

Datchworth continued their dominance in the scrum, but whilst trying to keep possession they conceded an immeasurable amount of penalties. This gave Asmoleans the chance to compose themselves and start to counter the pressure from the first half.

Kicking for territory and winning lineouts they forced a brief lapse in concentration in what had been an impenetrable village defence and broke down the left wing. With two more quick phases, the Ashmoleans' number eight drove through and put the home side in the lead for the first time in the game. The kicker missed his conversion, leaving the score 11-10 to Ashmoleans.

Desperately trying for that second try, Datchworth continued with a disappointing penalty count although the Ashmoleans kicker missed three attempts in a row within a five-minute period of play.

It was only a matter of time however, before one of these was in range and he duly extended the lead to 14-10. The villagers tried in vain to push but a dominant Ashmoleans were able to absorb the pressure and hold on for the win.

Captain Danny Sheridan admitted to being frustrated his side could not pull off an upset.

"I think we surprised them. Looking at the league table I'd have been expecting an easy win for them but we ran them close and I'm gutted we didn't pinch it. We were the better side in the first half and we missed a couple of opportunities to finish them off.

"Had we done so, I know our defence would easily have held on. The younger boys in the side have been rounding up more numbers to attend training from the seconds and thirds and even fourths and this has helped Richard Elvery to deliver the sessions we have needed to produce better performances like this.

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