Third in league with three games to go
Midlands 3 East (South)
Rugby St Andrews 11
Long Buckby 12
A case of mistaken identity cost Saints a red card and probably the game against visiting Long Buckby, who seized the lifeline and snatched victory in the 78th minute.
The initial problem arose in the first half when the referee deemed it necessary to issue yellow cards to Buckby’s number eight and, quite wrongly on this occasion, Karl Chaplow, after a bit of huff and puff amongst the forwards. The official belatedly admitted his error but when Chaplow received a second yellow for a technical infringement it was automatically upgraded to a red and Saints played the final half hour with only 14 men.
Until that point they had looked to be in overall control, having established a deserved 11-point lead and, with the elements in their favour and the pack dominant, capable of extending that. The visitors capitalised almost immediately and when both of Saints’ flankers were forced off through injury they began to exploit the gaps in the narrow channels and enjoy more success at the breakdown. The pressure was absorbed until the dying moments when stretched defence was finally breached.
Buckby kicked off with the wind at their backs but it soon became evident that they were struggling to match the home side’s eight and, as a result, were unable to sustain their attacks. Saints drew first blood with a Ryan Taylor penalty and, even though they lost powerhouse Kallum Goodfellow, injured when Buckby illegally collapsed a scrum, continued to have the better of the forward exchanges. A couple of promising moves from the backs ended with poor distribution but Taylor put over his second penalty to stretch the lead.
With all too frequent stoppages for injuries , penalties, lectures and free kicks the game had never been allowed to flow and both players and spectators were clearly becoming frustrated by the incessant blast of the whistle. It was more of the same from the restart when Buckby were yet again penalised at the breakdown and the offender yellow carded. Saints launched a drive from the lineout and Karl Chaplow claimed the try.
The villagers believed that they were denied a try when the referee had spotted a forward pass and overly vehement protests culminated in another yellow card, reducing them to 13 men. Saints should have driven home their advantage to put the game out of reach but again their finishing was poor. Will Headley broke out of from his 22, drew the remaining defender but his inside pass missed both supporting runners and that was effectively Saints’ last attacking threat as Buckby were back at full strength while the home side were down to 14 after the contentious red card.
Buckby’s confidence was boosted almost immediately when a series of forward drives produced a try and they clearly sensed that they could build on this. Saints had had to reshuffle their pack and for a period had five props on the park, with two of them making up the depleted back row. Not surprisingly they no longer enjoyed their earlier dominance. Although they managed to thwart three pushover attempts the breakdown area became a problem and the penalties conceded allowed the visitors to apply prolonged territorial pressure for the first time in the game. Despite this advantage Buckby could not break through as Saints resisted doggedly for a further 20 minutes, but with just a couple of minutes left the try between the posts and simple conversion denied them the win by the narrowest of margins.
This was a frustrating game in all respects. Had chances been taken and discipline maintained Saints would have established a more substantial advantage making the red card issue irrelevant. However they still hold third place in the table but Buckby and Oundle have closed the gap. With three games remaining Saints have possibly the easiest run in but they will need to regroup and refocus in preparation for a potentially difficult encounter away to BBOB in a week’s time.
Saints would like to express their appreciation to match day sponsors, the White Swan at Shawell, who provided a magnificent pre-match buffet for the visiting officials. The rest of the afternoon was , unfortunately, much less palatable.