Undefeated and league winners, this was the prize at stake for the Risborough boys when they jumped on a coach to travel to Oxford on Saturday afternoon. Final match of an extremely impressive season which would see the winners crowned champions of the BBO Championship. With both sides confirmed as promoted, bragging rights was what this match was about.
Risborough fielded a very strong side with a perfect mix of a big pack, running three quarters and pace out wide, defence was going to play a huge part in the early stages of the match. With one win, one draw and one loss against Oxford this season, we knew their tactics and style of play. Oxford didn’t disappoint, right from the off they attacked hard, hitting great lines through their big centres. Oxford pushed Risborough quickly back into their own 22 where ill-discipline and solid rucking turned the ball back to Risborough. Early signs that the Risborough lads were up for this soon started to swing the play back Risborough’s way, playing through the hands and getting the ball wide to our quick boys was surely the way this match was going to be won.
Risborough went closest to scoring when a turnover from Damien “I choke tackle when I want” Brown was very quickly distributed through the hands to Tom Strathdee who, at this point, was constantly breaking the gain line. The ball found its way to Lee Caudery who skipped past the very poorly positioned Oxford back line and then decided to try to run through the defending 15 rather than side step him but the momentum truly favoured the boys in Black and Red.
Oxford were rattled and it was clear to see that when after multiple infringements for numerous high tackles and shoulder barges, their 4 was sent to the side-lines for a 10 minute cuddle. While he was enjoying his cwutch, Oxford’s starting 10 pulled up with what seemed a nasty leg injury and had to be carried off the field of play.
With play being dictated by the forwards and some great hard running by Will Morton, Risborough found themselves more in Oxford’s half than their own. The lads needed to turn this position into points. Unfortunately some poor tackle distribution saw the ball back into the hands of the Oxford three quarters who broke through the middle for what seemed a certain run in try. The saviour for Risborough was Adam Pipkin who pinned his ears back and managed to nail the attacker, Mr Pipkin made a habit of doing this throughout the match. Risborough had to keep calm and not lose their composure.
Another penalty to Risborough and Liam Roads was looking for an attacking field position from the kick, Risborough lined up for a full lineout deep into the Oxford 22. Line out won, body positions set and a call from Hugh Fickling to drive on ensured this was the moment we had been waiting for. Oxford’s poor mauling position and Risborough’s desire to come away with a score, the whistle blew and under the pile of forwards rose Will Morton with the ball in hand. Liam was unable to convert this time.
Risborough found themselves back in Oxford’s 22 where a penalty was given for yet another piece of cynical play from the Oxford forwards. Liam Roads stepped up and slotted the ball through the uprights, 0–8 to Risborough with half time soonapproaching (or so we thought!). With multiple issues in the first period, the ref made sure the extra time was added. While in the extended half, more great work at the breakdown by Charlie Krabbe and Henry Gayler saw Risborough awarded another penalty in a very kickable position. Again, Liam Roads needed no invitation to step up and drill the ball through the posts. 0–11 and half time was finally called. Superb first half and the huge Risborough crowd showed their support to the lads now huddled in the middle for their half time telling off by Rob Hill!
Both Oxford and Risborough emerged for the second half quickly due to the lengthy first half. Oxford needed to react and Risborough had to keep this up, concentration was going to be key. Risborough started where they left off, forwards making the hard hits and backs picking Oxford’s back line apart. Oxford’s back line, keeping to their game plan of hitting Risborough hard on the counter, got the ball wide and made a break from within their own half., Damien Brown showed that he can sprint for more than 30 meters and caught the winger just outside the Risborough 22. With the lineout a little messy, Will Morton landed with a thud, the game was very quickly stopped by the official and both medical teams ran onto the field to assess the damage. Risborough’s head coach, Paul Scanlon, reported that Will had clearly dislocated his ankle, Oxford had to either move the match to another pitch or the result would stand. Both sets of coaches and the ref made the decision to move so that the remainder of the match could finish.
Match moved, flags back in the ground and the local bow and arrow group moved, the match continued. As mentioned earlier, concentration would play a huge part in the result. Risborough, clearly rattled by the horrible injury to Will, found themselves being hammered by a resurgent Oxford. With very little Risborough possession, the writing was on the wall, Oxford broke through tackle after tackle to go over for their first score of the match, conversion taken and nailed, 7-11 with at least 20 minutes remaining to play. Risborough had to dig deep and keep their heads, the next 10 minutes where tough to watch as a spectator. Risborough where rattled hard and the Oxford lads knew it,Risborough were giving away too many penalties in silly positions and another surge forwards by Oxford meant another penalty was awarded for poor play at the break down and saw the stand in kicker convert the three points, 10–11 with 10 minutes to play.
Oxford looked at this point the team with all the momentum and the likely winners, the Risborough lads where clinging on but Oxford carried on making the yards. Another surge and another silly penalty saw Damon Reading heading for a roasting by Rob Hill and Paul Scanlon, silly boy! Everyone on the side lines waited with hearts in mouths as the unlikely looking stand in 10 nailed another 3 pointer, 13-11. Huge roars from the Oxford crowd and management staff, they had won……..or had they. After the coach stopped shaking hands on the side-lines, players and supporters realised that the ref had signalled for one final play, there was time for the kick off and there was one more chance for Risborough to pull this back.
What happened next will go down in the clubs history! Guy Woodeson popped a lovely restart into the heart of the Oxford pack, the chasing Risborough boys had to go for this with everything they had left in the tank and they didn’t disappoint. With the ball hanging, the catcher had absolutely no chance to react, pile of bodies, attacking, rucking and then a whistle, penalty to Risborough. This was it, score and win, miss and have a very long walk back to the changing rooms wondering what went wrong. Man of the match, Liam Roads, did what he has been doing all season, he placed the ball on the tee, stood back, composed himself and dispatched the ball sailing through the uprights, 13-14 and the final whistle was blown. Scenes of utter jubilation followed, Risborough supporters cheering and players bundling Liam as the match winner, the Risborough players soon emerged to do the right thing and shake the hands of the distraught Oxford team, hands were shaken and bums slapped!
Risborough are the champions and are undefeated in an entire season, this was what all the hard work and dedication means.
Good luck to Will Morton with his recovery and a special thanks to Alex Cornish and the Oxford medical team for looking after Will so well, we all hope you come back next season 100% and fully fit.
|April 21, 2018||2:30 pm||Berks/Bucks & Oxon Championship||2017/18|
|Risborough 1st XV||14|
Risborough 1st XV