Chobham U16 A squad continued their tour of the Home Counties on Sunday with the short trip to Bracknell. Last Sunday the B squad had won a physical encounter with Bracknell Bs, with the wider attacking intent by a healthy 41-27 margin. This gave pointers to all involved as to the style of play of both A squads.
Chobham’s squad included a welcome debut for Max up front, and a returning Adam for his seasonal debut following a lengthy injury lay-off.
Buoyed by the strong wind behind them, the home side started the stronger. The hosts settled quickly into their rhythm, working big runners around the breakdown and pushing into Chob’ territory. A clearing kick was returned back deep into the blue defence. A couple of phases later an overlap out left and it was a 7-0 lead for the men in green, following a solid conversion from pretty wide out.
A scruffy restart was allowed into touch just over the 10 yard line and Bracknell had the opportunity to work another attack. The visitor’s set piece work started as it continued pretty much all game forcing a messy line but Bracknell’s ball retention was impressive in the early stages as they maintained their advantage as the game developed.
Chob’s first sign of attacking intent came from a free-kick at a lineout. A quick cross field kick with the Chob backs reacting quickest looked like a chance but cold hands led to the opportunity going begging. It wasn’t long before the opening score did come however as a kick from the Bracknell scrum half was sent out for their big wing to chase. Adam was back to mop up the bouncing ball and beat the wing in inches of space before haring off down the touchline. After beating another tackle, Doug was on the inside with a 1-2 pass back to Adam beating all but one of the scrambling defenders. With Adam a couple of yards short, Gideon popped up to trim the lead to 2 points.
The lead changed hands almost immediately as Bracknell spilled the ball in midfield where Olly seized it to put Chob on the front foot. This led to an attacking scrum on the right hand side. With a classic ‘Mitsubishi’ Harry was on the end of a couple of sharp passes to put Chob into a narrow 10-7 lead.
After this flurry of points the match settled into a battle of contrasting styles. Bracknell opting to keep the ball tight and use their size advantage, and Chobham looking to develop quick ball from the forwards and use their pace and handling skills wider out.
It was just such play that led to a third Chobham try. Another quick penalty was moved quickly to Adam once more on the left wing, and with no sign of rustiness, he made a lovely inside pass to Aran who had just enough gas to reach the whitewash. Chob now had a 15-7 lead.
As half-time loomed Bracknell had the ball once more. Their ball retention was again first rate as they pounded away at the Chob line. The visitors showed commendable restraint in not conceding a penalty, but after going through more phases than an Ireland attack Bracknell struck back for a 15-12 half-time scoreline.
Chob were now playing uphill away from the clubhouse, but with a gusting wind continuing to blow they probably had the better of the conditions. That said, Bracknell were first to threaten a score, going back to basics and trying to put the big guys over the line. Chob defence held firm once more and ultimately they won a penalty as a lone attacker was isolated and pinged for hanging on.
The clearance made it to halfway and Max took clean ball yet again. Chris ran a tiger line to burst through the Bracknell centres and was away too the races. As he closed on the full-back he had options both left and right. It was to Adam that the pass went and he made no mistake in adding his own score to a couple of assists, adding Chob’s fourth unconverted score. With twenty plus minutes to go it was now 20-12 to Chobham.
The game now became a bit stodgy, with heavy ground starting to have an effect. Bracknell had a couple of opportunities to punch holes over the Chob line but were held up. Meanwhile the Chobham handling couldn’t quite unlock the Bracknell defence, the pressure being limited mainly to pouncing on dropped passes when Bracknell did try to be more expansive. In truth Chob looked be pretty comfortable and happy to let Bracknell try and play their way back into the game.
With a few minutes to go a nasty tackle from Bracknell led to sparks flying briefly with some of the backs trying to join a melee and keep warm but no harm was done.
Chobham had one final chance from an attacking line, opting for the short ball from Charlie to Dan at the front as a change up. The ball was down over the line but the ref brought everyone back for a Bracknell free-kick, judging the throw to have not gone 5 yards and that was pretty much that.
So, a win against near neighbours, and over one or two school mates, with an improved discipline and a much reduced penalty count from the previous encounter which should bode well for the resumption inn Cup rugby in a couple of weeks.
Squad: Aran, Adam, Fin, Chris, Harry, George, Gideon, Dan, Charlie, Olly, Callum, Max, Connor, Matt, Doug, Harrison, Teo