It was another blustery day down at Riverwoods as the mighty U16s took to the Marlow first team pitch in front of their numerous adoring fans, including a growing set of teenage groupies eager to get a glimpse of their young rugby heroes. Some experienced rugby pundits have called this Marlow team the France of the U16 rugby circuit. So which Marlow would turn up today? The confident, offloading, hard-tackling team that we saw last week against Chinnor, or the brittle, under-confident team that we saw away to Henley. Read on to find out........
Early signs were good. Marlow kicked off and quickly won back possession. There followed an extended period of Marlow play with the home team dominating in the forward play. They had the vast majority of the possession and all of the territory but found themselves unable to capitalise with any points. Would they be made to pay for their lack clinical finishing ability? It wasn't until the 15th minute that Maidenhead even got into the Marlow half. But despite all of the early dominance from Marlow, it was Maidenhead that made the opening score. It was a difficult day for the kickers and Maidenhead failed to convert their try.
Marlow heads never looked like dropping despite the Maidenhead score against the run of play. They restarted strongly and some good backs play saw a returning Harry Martin romp over in the right corner to the delight of the Marlow fans. It was like he had never been away, and clearly all the nagging from the Marlow Head Coach to player and parent was reaping rewards. The conversion was missed by a disappointed Henry Waghorn in the strong cross/tail wind and the scores remained level at 5 - 5. Being a friendly fixture, the Marlow coaching team continued to ring the changes which disrupted the structure of the team somewhat. However, it was one of the substitutes, a rampaging and resurgent Milo Connolly that drove over in the left corner to give Marlow the lead. Once more, the conversion was missed, but without any reproach for Henry Waghorn due to the conditions. As the half time whistle sounded, Marlow held a 10 - 5 lead.
French undercurrents surfaced and a worryingly under-confident Marlow took to the field for the second half. They seemed to have forgotten how to tackle and were constantly standing off from the opposing ball carrier. It was unsurprising, therefore, when Maidenhead crossed the try line within a couple of minutes of the second half starting. The resulting conversion was once again missed and the scores were level at a nail biting 10 - 10. Marlow were now battling into a strong head wind and found it difficult to make territory. However, it was again the returning Harry Martin who looked most like scoring for Marlow. His pace and strength at centre were most welcomed. He sprinted through from the Maidenhead 22 to score close to the posts. Kicking duties were exchanged from Waghorn to Selman. It was a far easier opportunity than the ones presented to young Waghorn, but Kit Selman duly knocked the ball between the sticks to make the score 17 -10 to Marlow.
They say that refereeing decisions will even themselves out over the season. Far be it for this match reporter to criticise any of the refereeing team, but Waghorn Snr seemed determined to make amends for his touch judge error last week. He failed to see a clear knock on by Maidenhead on the Marlow 22. A couple of phases later, and partly due to some sloppy Marlow defending, Maidenhead duly scored and then converted. The score was now finally balanced at 17 - 17 with not much more than 15 minutes on the clock. Maidenhead looked by far the more likely team to go on and win the game, what with the wind at their backs and the Marlow team donning their berets and singing la Marseillaise. It was hardly surprising, then, when Maidenhead scored barely a minute later. The conversion was missed and the score was 17 - 22.
And perhaps in previous seasons it may have been there that the story ended. But this Marlow shrugged off their gallicness and put their shoulders to the grindstone. Determined Marlow play saw repeated attacks at the Maidenhead line. A forward pick and go surely saw Sam Tuckerman touch down but the referee was unable to award the try as he couldn't see the grounding. A TMO, or a helpful touch judge, would surely have awarded the try to Marlow. But since television technology has yet to filter down to the U16 age group, the score remained 17 - 22. As the clock ticked through the final 70 minute mark, all Maidenhead had to do was win possession and kick the ball out. However, repeated Maidenhead infringements saw Marlow awarded with three consecutive penalties that enabled them to gain territory and put themselves in with a chance of scoring. With the clock in the red, Sam Tuckerman drove over and grounded the ball in the left corner, scoring the try he had been denied moments earlier. At 22 - 22, Kit Selman was handed the kicking tee. His moment of glory and groupie adulation was before him. Unfortunately, the conditions defeated him and the attempt drifted wide. The final whistle blew to close a scintillating encounter. At 22 - 22, the score was a fair reflection of the match and both sets of players and supporters could feel satisfied. Rugby had been the true winner. :)
There were numerous strong performances from Marlow players. Tuckerman can feel aggrieved not to have scored two tries; Connolly and Simpson were once again imperious in their gritty forward play. Arnold looked dependable at full back and made some very strong forward runs, including one which resulted in an outrageous offload and the second Martin try. He was a strong contender for man of the match and just misses out by a whisker to Harry Martin who looked magnificent at centre, scoring two very well deserved tries. Welcome back Harry.