Grizzlies start the League season with a win.
The first league match of the season saw the Grizzlies head to Berkhamsted to play their 1XVs. We met them 3 times last season. We won 22-5 at home, but got trounced 59-7 in the return away fixture and then narrowly we lost 13-17 in the cup semi-final.
Suffice to say we were expecting a tough game but wanted revenge for last seasons results. We went there with a full strength squad and went into the game confident we could get the win after such a great preseason.
The game started off perfectly with an early score from Darren Coley. Good strong work at the break down by the Grizzlies forwards saw the ball being spun wide and through the hands releasing Darren on the wing. He still had a lot of work to do running past a couple defenders before scoring in the corner with aplomb. Robin Bye kicked the conversion 7-0.
The Berko pack were a strong big unit and for the first time in a long, long time the Grizzlies pack were struggling to hold them. Carl Lavin at 8 made several great breaks by picking up and going drawing the defence and releasing the backs.
It was a physical battle with big hits being made all over the park. Will Harlow smashing into one the Berko forwards stopping him dead. Jamie temple putting his body on the line in the breakdowns. Darren Ead making one of his signature runs at the breakdown, receiving a pop pass and booming the big Berko Lock forward on his back. The Berko player had to go off.
The lineouts were also as physical with the first yellow of the game being shown to one of the Berkhamsted jumpers for taking out Alan Grey in the air with a cheap shot breaking his nose in the process.
With the game becoming a bit heated I wanted to calm things down and kick for goal with the penalty given. With Robin off Chris Butterworth took over kicking duties and unfortunately he just kicked the ball wide of the left hand upright.
With the numerical advantage on our side we tried spinning the ball to our strike runners. Pat O’Brien at Inside Centre with his usual bullish runs made ground. Mick Foley at 13 make some mazey runs but it was our full back Lewis Butterworth who was the most potent runner though. His turn of speed and amazing hand offs allowed him to find gaps in the Berko defence. He was a constant threat with ball in hand and deserved MoM for his display not only in attack but in defence too. We missed several try scoring opportunities in the first half with either last ditch tackles being made by Berkhamsted or just the final pass not going to hand. Unfortunately we could not score against the 14 men.
Berko’s pack start to exert pressure on the Grizzlies pack every time we had a scrum. They worked their way into our half and then finally into our 22. Their big ball carriers finally broke the resolute Grizzlies defence when their Captain and No.8 crossed the try line for their first score. 7-5. Half time.
Second half was more of the same. Berkhamsted came out all guns blazing to try and win this game and made ground with their heavy forwards. Great defence stopped them crossing the whitewash on several occasions with Grizzlies putting their bodies on the line holding players up or pushing them backwards.
DoD moment came when tighthead prop Kieren Kelly powered through their defence leaving 3 or 4 of the Berko defenders on his wake. 5 metres out and clear to score it was like a sniper had shot him down, luckily enough for us he had just tripped over his own feet. Try avoidance!
From the resulting ruck I managed to pick up and go, sniping round the edge to score a try. Robin Bye back on the field converted the kick 14-5.
The game was far from over with Berko again crossing our line with some powerful forward play. 14-10. Then the second yellow of the day for Berko as a player was sent off for foul play. This time we managed to make our numerical advantage pay with a great score from Will Harlow who had been busy all day on the wing. His hard work was rewarded with a try. Conversion was missed.19-10.
With a couple of minutes left on the clock Berko threw everything at us. Camped in our 22 they drove at us and got held up. Came at us again, got held up. Finally they got the score they were after with a penalty try being awarded for a Grizzlie player (I will mention no names, but it could have been the number 9) coming in round the side and illegally holding the player up. 19-17.
We managed to hold on and register a great win against a very close rival. A fantastic effort from the boys and well deserved win. Testament to how hard the boys worked on the pitch, I have never heard such a quiet Grizzlies changing room after we have just won. I think they were just too tired to celebrate.
Our next match is Pinner and Gramarians at home.
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|Berkhamsted RUFC, Lockhart Field, Berkhamsted HP23 5RF|