You live and die by the sword!
Off the back of a hard-to-take loss against Saracens Amateurs a strong Thamesian side set out to put things right and we wanted to show the talent we have at our disposal. The tone for the afternoon was set when Watford attempted to warm up on the Ts side of the pitch and were subsequently sent scurrying back to the other end of the pitch. A theme, that I am glad to say, that would become apparent throughout the first half of the game.
A lofted kick off from Kieran gave a hungry T’s pack an all too inviting chase and the pressure told on the player underneath the ball, who knocked it on, while his teammates went over the top to try and secure it. The ref set an early marker for how he was going to adjudicate the game by awarding T’s a penalty. Jonno maintained his impressive kicking form and within the first minute had the opportunity to put T’s ahead and he duly converted - advantage T’s!
The rest of the first half followed a general theme, a tough battle up front on what looked to be a forwards day – which was not helped by the drizzle that blew in part of the way through the first half and dampened the spark needed to set the T’s backs alight as unfortunately an electrifyingly quick back three were never really given the chance to show their talent. This was made worse as many of the adoring fans on the sidelines had flocked down to see Buddha’s return to the Thamesian side and he was forced to rely on kick returns to try and impose his will on the game.
It was a physical first half that saw more big hits and bruising encounters rather than the flowing rugby the team has tried to implement recently. The damage was done up front and another strong showing from the forwards gave T’s a solid platform to build the phases and apply the pressure. It was this return to phase play that the coaches had tried to drill into the team as this had been the foundations of success in the last few seasons. Throughout the first half T’s camped in Watford's side of the pitch. Yet despite all the huffing and puffing, and some surging runs from captain Rory, they couldn't find a way through to Watford's line, thanks to a mixture of disciplined defence and a couple of passes not sticking!
An equalizing penalty from Watford fired up a confident T’s side who were asserting their dominance in these early encounters. Good work in the loose by C-mike and Earwig (AKA Wiggles) saw some vital turnovers one of which led to another penalty and up stepped Jonno to bisect the posts to ensure that T’s went in to half time on top.
The start of the second half maintained the high intensity of the first half as the two packs of forwards battle sought to gain the upper hand. Another exchange of penalties saws T’s maintaining their 3 advantage as they looked to take the game beyond the reach of Watford.
In an open game and both sides showing the gritty determination that it will take to win in the upcoming winter months, the climax to the game was always going to be a tense one. Watford reacted to this and responded with good positional place which put T’s on the back foot and reversed the trend off the first half as they went on the offence. A couple of sloppy errors from us yielded vital field position and Watford exploited this by pressuring T’s into giving a penalty right in front of the sticks, which was nudged over to tie the scores.
As Watford slowly realised they were back in the game and buoyed by levelling the scores they once more went on the attack and as the fitness of both sides began to drop the game begun, for the first time, to swing in Watfords favour. As their scrum begun to go up through the gears they were able to start releasing the backs and make some yards in our territory. It was one such move that saw the opposition wing find some space in the outside channel and just manage to dance inside the touch line to put Watford ahead for the first time in the game. The successful conversion from the touch line added salt to the wound and somehow after all their early pressure we found ourselves seven points down with the clock working against us.
This roused the boys into an organised frenzy and got the passion going. This desire for something from the game was echoed from the touchlines as the supporters attempted to rouse the team into action and that is exactly what happened. As we focused on the job at hand and managed to return to our style in the first half that saw our dominance, we again set up camp in the Watford half. After some strong carries in the middle of the park, characterised by the ever reliable Mr Lynch, an inviting platform for the backs was set in the middle of the park. Good awareness from Sam and Wiggles (AKA Earwig) spotted the space out wide and called the move and with quick hands down the line the backs were set free for the first time in the game. There was only going to be one outcome. Kieran found himself in space down the wing and there was nobody who was going to catch the flyer. He had the presence of mind to dot down as close to the posts as possible (for once he actually decided to ground the ball…). Jonno stepped up to attempt to level the scores and was denied by narrowest of margins as the ball rebounded of the left upright.
This was the lift we needed and we knew time was not our ally as we looked to get back into the Watford half and throw all we had at the opposition line. A penalty would have seen us clinch the game and despite playing the right areas of the pitch we were unable to wrestle back control of the ball. Watford seemed happy to grind out the last few minutes and regardless of appeals from our players and supporters alike for a possible infringement the referee wouldn’t acquiesce to their pleas and a penalty against Ts for coming in at the side finally sealed the fate as the clock ticked down before Watford eventually kicked the ball off the park to guarantee their win by a mere two points.
Yet all is not lost for Thamesians, the game saw a spirited display and a return to the notorious phase play that will set up the basis for a strong rest of the season. A losing bonus point was picked up to keep the points tally ticking over and there were positive signs. It was always going to be tough in a transitional year but things are moving in the right direction and it will come for this talented group of players. Our team will take the pain of this loss and use it to fire our next match and you have to feel sorry for whichever team faces the full wrath of a fully functioning Thamesian side.
On a parting note it will be sad to see Ben Southerst leave and he will be sorely missed, Jonnos bike will no longer have a friend to be seen with and how will we fare with the absence of the man who has more injuries than Cookie does stories?
Finally a very Happy Birthday (again) to El Presidente whose birthday was celebrated in style that evening which just goes to show that no matter what happens on the pitch we are all in this together and a great club no matter what!
The only other thing left to say is #savetheshorts
Penalties: Jonno (3)
1Sam B, 2Coogs, 3Rory, 4George F, 5Banksy, 6C-Mike, 7James Irwin, 8Lynchy, 9Slash, 10Nobby, 11Kieran, 12Tramp, 13 Dan Jones, 14Jonno, 15Buddha, 16Callum, 17Kristian, 18George
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