09:03PM, Saturday 16 October 2021
Maidenhead 29, Hertford 48
Maidenhead will be looking to tweak – or completely change – their defensive shape after conceding eight tries in a comprehensive 48-29 defeat to Hertford at Braywick Park this afternoon.
Maids weren’t exactly outplayed, with the home side enjoying spells of dominance and territory in their opponents’ 22. However, they were extremely vulnerable to Hertford’s counter attacks, with the visitors running the ball to good effect, often from inside their own half.
Maids came into the game off the back of their 16-10 victory over Tunbridge Wells, the kind of gritty display which gave them plenty of heart for the rest of the campaign, having struggled to adapt to the pace and physicality of life in the London & South East Premier. However, on the same ground, but in very different conditions, they were at times cut to ribbons by a Hertford side led by their elusive full-back Charlie Parkhouse.
The warning signs for Maids were there from pretty much the first whistle, with Parkhouse going over the whitewash after only four minutes. The ball was spread outwide and, anticipating a lovely little chip over the defence, he collected the ball to touch down. The conversion was shanked but the Maids’ backline defence already knew they’d be in for a difficult afternoon.
The home side then enjoyed their best spell of the game, with the returning Christoph Bart making headway on a couple of occasions to drive Maids into the visitors’ 22. Ed Keohane missed a relatively straight-forward kick to bring them back into contention before the captain Ben Mitchell stepped up to score the first of their four tries midway through the first half. After a couple of darting runs, Maids edged closer to the line before Mitchell broke through rolling off a tackle to touch down. Keohane slotted the extras to give Maids a 7-5 lead, but they held it for a matter of minutes and never regained it again after Hertford’s number nine, Sitch, dived over in the corner to make it 10-7. Having missed several tackles in the build-up, Maids desperately tried to bundle the scrum half into touch, but the referee felt he’d touched the ball down before being pushed out. A third try followed and once again it was far too for Parkhouse to give Maids’ backline the slip and weave in for a try, which again went unconverted.
Will Macaulay was denied by a last-ditch tackle with the try line beckoning, after a sensational break by Bart, as Maids enjoyed another spell of possession and territory. They pressed for a second try but, in the end, had to settle for a penalty, kicked by Keohane on the stroke of half-time (10-15).
At the break it felt like a contest that might still go either way, but Maids were blown away by Hertford’s expansive running rugby in the second half. The visitors chalked up five tries to quieten the crowd and finish off any remaining hopes of a comeback. Hertford’s best try of the afternoon arrived five minutes after the restart and Parkhouse was again the creator, weaving through tackles before looping a pass out wide for Kyle Lemon to go over in the corner (10-22).
Maids second try owed a little to lady luck, with the ball bouncing unkindly for Parkhouse who was then hammered by Maids bodies, gifting up possession for Mitchell to pick up and go over for his second try. Keohane slotted the extras to bring Maids back to within five points and the Braywick crowd were fully re-engaged. However, the problem for the hosts was that Hertford looked capable of scoring at will. Again, they broke from deep and played the ball through hands to give Sitch the chance to score his second try. Maids simply couldn’t live with the speed and precision of Hertford’s play at this point and the impressive Edgar was the next to chance his arm, breaking through the hosts’ flimsy defences to run in under the posts for a converted try (17-36).
There was still time for four more tries, two of them for Maids, but unfortunately two more for Hertford. Keohane picked up from the back of the maul to dive over in the 62nd minute, but he wasn’t able to make the conversion (22-36). Again, any momentum from the try quickly fizzled out with Hertford lofting a simple miss-pass out to the right where Creasy was waiting to run in unopposed for his first try.
While this was a dismal defensive display from Maids, there was plenty to admire about their attacking play and, but for some resilient last-ditch defence, would have put more points on the board. Their best moment arrived in the 73rd minute when they moved the ball out wide at such pace to give Bart the chance to crash over. Keohane swung over a really tricky conversion to bring Maids back to within 12 points, but every time Maids scored, Hertford hit straight back. With five minutes to go the last of the 77 points were scored when David Hale scored on his first XV debut, bouncing off some more half-hearted Maidenhead tackles to touch down in the corner. Hertford’s number 10 finally found his range, making a terrific conversion to make the final score 29-48.
The final whistle drew applause from the Braywick Park crowd, in part for Hertford’s impressive display but also for the entertainment given by both teams.
But, when all is said and done, Maids’ head coach David Mobbs-Smith and his defensive coach have plenty to work after the side suffered a fifth defeat in only six league outings.
There will be displays at Windsor Racecourse and Legoland, local fireworks in Burnham and Twyford and smaller displays at schools in the Royal Borough.