Two teams enter
By Ollie Green
Who will walk out top of the table
Saturday 14th November – Cuffley 15-20 Berkhamsted
1.Ieuan Griffiths 2.Dan Prince 3.Tim Brickle 4.Tom Hansard 5.Rob Peche 6.Ollie Green (Captain) 7.Iain McIllwee 8.Ron Herriott 9.Joe Dalton 10.Adam Garland 11.Will Oare 12. Matt Cain 13.Ryan Gow 14.Mitchell Ayres 15.Sam Connolly 16.Sam Groome 17.Dave Barnett 18.Paul Kelly 19.Steve Dalton 20.Andy Cato 21.Karl Wordsworth
What a game, what a performance, and EVERY SINGLE PLAYER did themselves and this club proud. We let ourselves down last week against OV’s. We lost by just a point, but put simply, ‘’we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory’’. We made too many silly mistakes and ultimately OV’s outdid us in fitness, heart and hunger to win. We knew this week would prove a tougher test away against an unbeaten Cuffley side, but it would also offer us a chance to make amends and right some wrongs…
Cuffley are a well-drilled side and have a handful of very talented players. Combine with that a sizable forward pack and it’s no surprise that they’d won 6 from 6 coming into the game and were top of the table. Cuffley reminded us of the South Oxhey team that we used to enjoy playing against in Camelot colours and as it always was with them, this could be described as a competitive, physical and at times ‘punchy’ game of rugby. If we’re honest, it’s the type of rugby that we all enjoy.
We were on the back foot right from the kick-off, and Cuffley scored with their first notable attack. A clever kick by their 9 put our full-back under pressure and given the wet conditions, the ball was spilled only for Cuffley to capitalise and score for a converted try. It’s never nice to start that way and we could see heads dropping. Wind-on to the 7th minute and we were 12-0 down. Again, pressure from their kicker and some early dominance from their forwards at the breakdown set a platform for another score. This time not converted but at 12-0 down (after just 7 minutes) we had a mountain to climb. Coming into the game, we all knew the stats. Only a win would send us back to the top of the merit table and we had to beat a side that had conceded only 20 points in their previous 6 outings.
Under Ollie’s captaincy, and with a lot of positive chat from the old dogs in the team, we managed to steady the ship and for the next 15 minutes Berko were able to soak up continued pressure from Cuffley. We rarely ventured into the Cuffley half and when we did it was generally a clearance kick to touch from the boot of Adam Garland or Sam Connolly. Tom Hansard was an absolute beast around the breakdown - the best game he’s played in a long time and it was a shame to lose him to injury. The physicality of the game meant we were bound to lose more players to injury. Ryan was our biggest threat in the first half and Joe was having a great comeback game. Neither of them were to see the second half. Stevie Dalton came on for his competitive debut for Berko and it was handy to have Wordy on the bench to fill in at 9. Reaching HT at 12-0 seemed like a small achievement given the start we’d had and having the fresh legs of Groomy and Paul Kelly on the pitch gave the team a much needed boost. After a shaky start, Sam Connolly was clearing up nicely at the back and our forwards were enjoying long periods of possession.
It was simple rugby. Ball up the jumper stuff. Saffa was giving a masterclass in the pick and go and with big boys Will Griffiths and Tim Brickle on his shoulder every time, we made at least 5 yards on each attack. Cue our first score. Wave after wave of Berko attack around the fringes saw Saffa cross for an unconverted try. The score was 12-5 to Cuffley with exactly 18 minutes remaining. Cuffley didn’t like our score and tempers on both sides started to fray. Cuffley received a harsh sin-bin for a bit of back-chat and Groomy was equally unlucky to see a yellow a few minutes later for an offense on the floor. Our back line were resolute. Matt Cain settled back into his old role in the centres and Old Man Garland showed no sign of his advancing years. Will Oare is getting better every game and was chasing the high balls and offloading well. Iain McIllwee came out of retirement to play his first competitive game for the club and did a solid job partnering Ollie and Ron in the back row. With all three players coming close to scoring in the second half. They didn’t score… but Saffa got another! Same old script and another great finish from close range bringing the score back to 12-10. Groomy was still in the bin so our Hooker stepped up to convert from in front of the posts to make it 12-12.
Momentum was well and truly with Berkhamsted. We were tired and beaten up but we could taste this victory. Just a few minutes from time we had a score disallowed. The ref deemed that the ball was held-up and awarded a 5 metre scrum to us. Cue Saffa again. Again from close range. Nothing pretty about it but they all count. A missed conversion left the score at 17-12 to us. There was just 5 minutes left on the clock and just a score in it. Although Cuffley had plenty of possession in a frantic period of play, we were backing ourselves to hold fast. A moment of poor Cuffley discipline at the breakdown saw Berkhamsted awarded a penalty 35 metres out. This gave Ollie a decision to make. Kick to touch and go for another score or give someone the chance to be the hero with a kick at goal? An 8 point lead would leave Cuffley needing two scores to win. Hero time it was and step up Sam Groome. Fresh from the bin and with lots of pressure on the kick, he nailed it. Nice one Sam.
Cuffley were straight back on us and with just 3 minutes of normal time to go we gave them a penalty in front of the posts. It was hands in the ruck. A bit stupid but we were all exhausted. They made the sensible choice and went for posts. Their 9 slotted that one (20-15 to us) meaning they needed a try to draw the game and a converted try to win. They certainly went for it. Berko however held out and saw the ball into touch for a really pleasing victory. Probably the best many of us had had in years. Well done to both teams. It was a great game of rugby.
MotM. It was a tough call this week as there were so many great performances. In the end MotM award was awarded jointly to two players – Saffa and Will Griffiths. Saffa was an obvious choice having scored a hat-trick of tries and Will was chosen for his outstanding efforts in the loose and also at the breakdown. Well done boys – Well deserved.
Final score: Cuffley 15-20 Berkhamsted