Reeds Second Half Revival Saves the Day
PAPA JOHNS RFU COMMUNITY CUP: QUARTER FINAL
REEDS WEYBRIDGE 38 AYLESBURY 24
Aylesbury brought a big and aggressive set of forwards down to Whiteley Village last Saturday that had Reeds, up the slope in the first half, struggling for possession. The visitors territorial advantage enabled them to set up a series of rucks and mauls to threaten Reeds line and it took all of Reeds defensive prowess to hold out Aylesbury whose pack was littered with good ball carriers.
Reeds were in defensive mode, locked down in their own half facing a battering from all parts of the park and especially Aylesbury’s big 8. This wasn’t helped by a poorly functioning line out that meant Reeds far too often coughed up possession when in their opponent’s half.
Eventually the pressure told and it was Ben Knight, the veteran Aylesbury prop forward who opened the scoring with a powerful thrust on a clever running angle from behind the pivot player courtesy of a 5 metre ‘tap and go’ routine from off the training ground with fly half Alex Shearer collecting the extras.
Reeds were also struggling to get their line out functioning whereas Aylesbury’s hooker, the ex-Leicester Tigers player James Buckland, was finding his man with aplomb. But there is a core group of players in this Reeds side that are able to lift the team, and lead by example in difficult circumstances – they needed all that resilience in those early phases and in truth Aylesbury should perhaps have done better with the promising positions they had but contrived instead to give Reeds ‘’easy outs’’ far too frequently for their own liking.
Despite Reeds tenacity, they conceded another seven-pointer just before the break, once again from a short range thrust from Knight.
Half time and Reeds were fourteen points adrift not really having fired a shot so far, but they had the slope to come and there was a suggestion that Reeds younger side would have the edge in the fitness stakes. Those two factors proved to be decisive in the second half, Reeds were winning more ball going forwards from the loose rucks and the tight scrums, Ollie Palmer, back from injury was firing out some huge passes to fly half Jack Jesty, he was able to unleash Billy Maddock into defence busting runs in the midfield and young Matt Stephenson his centre partner was firing out some inch perfect passes to Joe Moriarty and Marcus Clark the two wingers. That pressure soon produced points, Reeds camped a few metres out, recycled the ball and Jack Jesty darted over and converted his own try. 14 – 7 and Reeds were back on the horse, that slope and Reeds younger, fitter side were now giving Aylesbury defensive issues. It was Jonny Rogers the full back who came into the attack and burst through the defence for the second try of the day, courtesy of a great series of passing interchanges from amongst others Joe Moriarty and Alex Corner. A difficult conversion from ‘sure-shot’ Jesty was the icing on the cake and levelled the scores.
The visitors had brought a huge crowd of vociferous supporters with them and they got right behind their heroes and they responded, driving play deep into Reeds half after Reeds had conceded a no of penalties that saw the referee march them up the pitch, and the visitors were once again ahead as a result of a well-worked catch and drive to make it 14 – 21. Reeds were however winning the territorial battle and that usually brings points, especially if the ball is with centre Billy Maddock, he takes some stopping when the try line is in sight and his powerful thrust took him through the defence for a seven pointer to level the scores shortly after. Aylesbury were soon back on the attack and they came so close to a defining score out wide, a try seemed certain but young Matt Stephenson had raced over in defence and somehow had wrestled the ball clear from the opposing winger as he hit the try line, it was a match saving tackle. In that last quarter Reeds went ahead with a penalty, but Aylesbury hit back with a long distance penalty kick of their own. Twenty-four points apiece with ten minutes on the clock, and Reeds were camped deep in Aylesbury territory, it was Olly Palmer, scrum half and instigator of so many Reeds attacks who darted over from short range for the decisive try. There was just enough time for the visitors to hit back, but any chance of that happening evaporated when Reeds winger Marcus Clark got his hands on the ball on the half way line, and he was over the line in the corner for another seven-pointer, despite the best efforts of Aylesbury’s full back to tackle him into touch.
Jack Jesty, had an outstanding day, scoring a try himself and converting all five tries and one penalty to put in a 100% kicking performance. Reeds Man of the Match Award however went to Matt Stephenson, an all-round footballer with brilliant playmaking skills, defence, and pace that provided so many opportunities out wide.
Man of the Match Matt Stephenson
On a separate but very important note, DoR Nige Connell took the time in the player huddle after the match to present Sophie Capito our Head Physio with an award for her outstanding response to a medical emergency at Gravesend that saved a spectator’s life.
Sophie Capito and Nige Connell
Team: Josh Brown / Rhys Day / Lennan Day / Shannon Fullen / Herbie Finn (capt) / Cameron Goodwin / Ross Stratton / Simon Fozard / Joe Wastie / Alex Corner / Ollie Palmer / Jack Jesty / Joe Moriarty / Billy Maddock / Matt Stephenson / Marcus Clark / Jonathan Levett / Jonathan Rogers
Note that Reeds are at Home in the semi-final of the Papa Johns Cup where they will face a strong Truro side on 29th April. Please look out for more details nearer the time.
GS April 23rd 2023