Wallingford Win On The Road....Again!
On a rare fine day in 2014, Wallingford travelled to Milton Keynes, having not played for several weeks due to the weather. In selection, Shaun Bailey and Adam Cambridge came back into the pack, whilst the backs remained unchanged.
Wallingford kicked off and regained possession straight away courtesy of a thumping hit by James Norris, chasing down the kick. And as has been the case for most of the season, Wallingford’s scrum promptly shunted their counterparts back ten yards as Wallingford started strongly.
With Wallingford with all the early possession, and the hosts not agreeing with the referee’s interpretation of the laws, it was no surprise when Wallingford took the lead from a calmly taken penalty from Phil Dawes.
Wallingford’s early domination soon earned them the first try of the match, as they marched their opponents back over their own line at the scrum, for Jermaine Webster to complete the formalities, as Wallingford took an 8-0 lead.
As the half progressed, Milton Keynes discipline began to improve and they began to get back into the game, with their fly-half converting a penalty from near the half-way line to reduce the arrears.
The last ten minutes saw the hosts really test the Wallingford defence, and really should have scored at least two tries. The first opportunity saw them stretch the Wallingford defence, and after some good off-loads, the second-row was put in, but as he went to ground the ball, a last ditch tackle from Smith managed to dislodge the ball from his grasp and the chance was spurned.
Then five minutes later, a kick ahead saw a chase by the MK Number 8, but under-pressure from Smith again, the ball was knocked on just a yard short of the line.
Despite these let-offs, with Wallingford’s discipline beginning to slip and energy levels dropping, a quick tap by the chunky MK full-back saw him barrel through some disorganised Wallingford defence for a try under the posts, as MK took the lead, which they took into halftime.
Now playing down the slope, Wallingford were confident of coming back in the second half, but with the referee becoming increasingly strict at the breakdown, their set-piece dominance was becoming negated by their ill-discipline. In an attritional twenty minutes after half-time, neither team were able to make any decisive breaks, with the only noteworthy action being a converted penalty by Phil Dawes to give Wallingford the lead.
The pivotal moment in the game came with fifteen minutes to play. With the ball moved blind to Tom Swainston on half way, he put in an excellent kick ahead which Smith won the foot race for, but as he fly-hacked ahead from twenty yards out, he was inexplicably tripped by his opposite number, and the referee rightly awarded a penalty try, as Wallingford took an 18-10 lead.
And for the first time in many matches, Wallingford didn’t switch-off and concede a retaliatory try, as they pushed forward again and earned a penalty 30 yards out which the impressive Phil Dawes slotted comfortably.
Now 11 points behind with under ten minutes to go, MK threw everything at the visitors, and after resisting for five minutes, the tiring Wallingford defence were out-stripped out wide and their flanker touched down for an unconverted try. Despite the obvious nerves, Wallingford held firm and the game ended 21-15 to Wallingford.
This was the first time Wallingford have won back-to-back away games for at least three years, and it was against a decent Milton Keynes team. Based on the consistently dominant performance of the scrum, Wallingford’s all-round display was impressive, with the line-out functioning the best it has all season, and the quality of the tackling much improved. Considering the lack of training, and inevitable lack of fitness, Wallingford played for the full 80 minutes, and but for a few poor decisions, could have won the game more comfortably. That said, MK had their chances, with two penalties coming off the woodwork and two tries butchered in the first half.
Tries: Webster, Penalty
Pens: P.Dawes 3
1.Marris 2.Zaluzny 3.Welch (Greenway) 4.Bailey 5.Tappin (Hoare) 6.Cambridge 7.Norris 8.Webster
9.P.Dawes 10.Swainston 11.Da Silva (Settle) 12.Holton 13.Bateman 14.Smith 15.Kitts