Big guns are brought back to blast Maidenhead away
MAIDENHEAD 14 OLD PATESIANS 29
OLD Patesians secured their expected bonus point win against bottom-of-the-table Maidenhead in their National League Three South West clash, but their victory was tainted by an extremely indifferent first-half performance.
Pats had rested some of their key players for last week's defeat against league leaders Weston and now these big guns returned to ensure success against the lowly Maids.
James Stickland was back in the second row, Henry Tapsell was restored at number eight, George Hughes returned at full-back and Matt Dean was reinstated as playmaker in the fly-half shirt, along with James Aherne once again in the scrum-half berth.
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Braywick Park has benefited from a major investment and RFU funding and now boasts an all-weather pitch and it took ages for Pats to acclimatise to the perfect conditions underfoot compared to Everest Road.
Pats also had forwards coach Chris Downes making his second outing of the season in the front row in place of skipper James King and he played a significant part in rupturing the first Maidenhead scrum feed.
From the broken play that followed, full-back Hughes dashed from deep but was clattered into touch a few metres out from the Maidenhead goalline.
Leroy Hughes has retained his place in the Pats back row, while first-pick Paul Scott is serving a three-match ban, and turned over the Maidenhead line-out at the tail.
Maidenhead collapsed the Pats drive and were punished by a penalty goal from full-back Hughes.
Maidenhead knew at this stage of the season they had no chance of escaping relegation and with nothing to lose, for the majority of the first half, they were by far the better team.
Their forwards matched anything the Pats could offer in the tight and loose and their threes attacked from anywhere on the park with great intensity, pace, handing and determination to go down fighting.
Pats' tackling was outstanding, but such was the ferocity of the Maidenhead storm that gaps were bound to appear.
But the visitors were lucky that their hosts butchered several scoring chances when the final pass went astray when a try seemed certain.
Pats were starved of any worthwhile possession until, from a penalty lineout, they served up a driving maul and winger Callum Kerr went over for a try, converted by full-back Hughes.
Maidenhead suffered this reversal and remained entirely in control of the half with respect to territorial domination and possession.
Despite squandering more golden opportunities to score they finished the half with a try, at last, for prop Jamie Townsend converted by centre Mike Virgo. Pats led 10-7 at the break.
Pats increased their lead immediately after the interval when flanker Hughes charged down the restart clearance and Downes on his shoulder collected and was barged into touch just short of the line.
Pats had the lead, but were still living off scraps of possession until full-back Hughes collected in his own half and sliced through the Maidenhead defence with his devastating pace and balletic swerves and sent in Kerr for his second try and the try-creator duly added the extras.
To some extent, Pats had now settled into a reasonable rhythm with Aherne and full-back Hughes using the wind to gain useful territory in an attempt to crush the life out of the Maidenhead outfit who just refused to back off.
On this kind of form, Maidenhead just did not deserve to be propping up the table as they stretched the Pats defence to near breaking point.
Pats just about held their nerve and their principal heavy ball carrier Tapsell at last found room to charge through the gain line and send in centre Stu Taylor for a try, converted by full-back Hughes.
As time ran out, Maidenhead set up camp on the Pats five-metre line and recycled through 15 phases before their live-wire scrum-half Elliot Brown danced around the blindside for an excellent try converted by Virgo.
Pats had survived a serious mauling with a much-needed win, but must improve if they are to haul down the colours of Oxford Harlequins and Malvern in their next two fixtures, both at home.
Maidenhead: S Munn, A Lane, M Virgo, G Jackson, E Pettigrew, P Jansen, E Brown, J Townsend, R Craig, P Britton, A Hankinson, C O'Byrne, J Emmanuel, R Evans, R Long. Reps: M Parrott, D Evans, B Richmond
Old Patesians: G Hughes, W Kane, L Taylor, S Taylor, C Kerr, M Dean, J Aherne, C Downes, C Dean, C Thompson, G Evans, J Stickland, J Stevens, L Hughes, H Tapsel. Reps: Rob White, Dom Redbourne, C Stonier
Man of the match: Leroy Hughes, Pats' openside wing forward.