The day was ideal for rugby, bright, cool and firm underfoot.
On 4mins the hosts took the lead when forward pressure resulted in a penalty (3-0).
It became quite obvious in the early exchanges that this would become a battle up front. Billingham’s large pack was happy to keep tight reins on the ball whereas West wanted to play a more expansive game.
On 14mins Billingham extended their lead with another penalty (6-0).
The Bucks took a chance on 18mins when they executed a catch and drive. No6 Tim Blades drove close to the line. Initially it was moved out to No10, Youll, who took it back to the forwards before the ball was moved wide to Todd in the centre who went over on the 15m line (6-5).
On 23mins back came Billingham. Their attack seemed to have died out after a knock on and dropped pass but the referee seemed oblivious and from a kick through the home 15 won the race to the touchdown for a converted try(13-5).
The Bucks response was immediate when Bill knocked on from the kick off. From the resultant scrum Youll received the ball to break outside his opposite number and dive over for a score (13-12).Youll converted his own try.
Bill then exploited a Bucks error and set up a platform for their forwards which eventually led to a driving maul and try(18-12).
The Bucks took the lead 1min into 1st half injury time when a backs move released 15 Tyers and 14 Foster. They interlinked and Tyers was pulled down just short. The ball was quickly recycled and No8 Cookland was released in the centre to race over.Youll converted.
Half Time (18-19).
The old adage ‘the next score is vital’ was never more true. Unfortunately for the Bucks it was the home team who retook the lead, never to relinquish it, as, on 6mins into the 2nd period, they converted a penalty (21-19).
There was no more score for some 24mins as both sides failed to take their chances. The Bucks came very close on a couple of occasions through their backs but the pressure of the situation seemed to be getting to the team and their efforts remained unfulfilled.
10mins from time Bill secured their win when some appalling defence from a scrum allowed one of the big home forwards to charge over (28-19).
This was a really tough encounter for both teams (goodness knows why Bill are in the Social League when they could be playing tougher games in the Merit League every week or so). They deserved their victory not allowing the Bucks to play their normal game.
The Bucks forwards never really created enough of a platform. Often the basics were not completed correctly and in pressure situations when good quality ball is at a premium the little things actually mean a lot (poor kick receipts, kick chases, loss of ball in contact, not securing ruck ball etc).
However when the forwards are under pressure the Backs can help out. How? By making good decisions, keeping hold of hard won ball, kicking intelligently and upping the ante in defensive situations.
So I have used the word pressure quite a few times. This season the pressure has not been on as much as is needed. We have often been able to coast through games, or rely on moments of magic to pull us through. Today when the pressure came on we were not good enough to react to it. You can only learn to react to it by being exposed to it regularly. We have talked about the Candy 2nd Division, as a team, over the last few weeks and that is where, in my opinion, we should be heading. Tougher rugby, longer trips, yes. But if players want to improve they have to improve the environment in which they play.
All the best to Billingham in the competition. Perform like that and it is in your hands to win it!
The Bucks now have 3 tough away fixtures in the league vs Acklam, Mowden Pk & Middlesbrough.
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