Visitors to Merton rugby know exactly what they are going to face, a big set of aggressive forwards and a small muddy ground with a pronounced slope. And for those that like to pore over the league statistics, they will have noticed that although Merton lost to high flying Haileyburians they managed to clock up thirty plus points in the process.

The first scrum of the afternoon saw Reeds going backwards at a rate of knots; it was a signal that they were going to have a difficult afternoon up front. When a juggernaut pack gets a shove on going down the slope in muddy conditions there isn’t much that is going to stop them and it provided Merton with plenty of quality ball. And it was that scrummage power that led to Merton’s try.

Reeds in defence on their own five metre line conceded ground and No 8 Lee Elliot was unstoppable from that distance.

But whilst Merton had the upper hand up front, Reeds were certainly in charge in the lineouts, they stopped Merton getting easy possession and they didn’t lose one all afternoon, Toby Blyther was pin point accurate with every throw and young Simon Fozzard and Herbie Finn collecting the goods were key figures in Reeds eventual win.

Reeds were seven points adrift at the change round but now they had the slope in their favour, having said that, running the ball in those conditions was always risky, but Reeds knew they had to get the ball into the open spaces if they were going to win the game.

The breakdowns were fiercely contested with Alex Keefe and Alex Corner a dominant strike force and Kerran Beavis a real power house flanker stopping Merton attacks with some shuddering tackles.

Midway through the second half, Reeds were back in the game with a penalty from fly half Pete Davidge, not easy in the mud. With ten minutes to go Reeds launched an attack from the 22, quick hands found just a yard of space for Malcolm Harding and that was all he needed to touch down way out. Reeds needed Pete Davidge to slot the conversion to draw level and he did just that.

Ten points each with five minutes to go and the result could have gone either way, Reeds felt they had clinched the game when another nerveless penalty shot from Davidge put them into the lead only for Reeds to concede a penalty just wide of the sticks on the 22. Surely a draw would be the final result, but agonisingly for the Merton supporters the shot drifted just wide and Reeds ran out the winners.

It was a gritty performance from Reeds, up against a determined pack and a resolute defence that shut down the attacking options was a real challenge. But there is some real dog about Reeds this year and that combined with a crucial eight points from Pete Davidge got them over the line.

Next week Reeds have a one week rest from League rugby before facing Guildfordians at home on January 28th.

George Spinks

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