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Radley scrum sees them dominate Cheltenham

It has been a rain soaked week in Oxfordshire and the Radley pitches had taken a beating, with puddles dotted around and the turf cutting up both Radley and Cheltenham chose to warm up on the surrounding pitches, keeping Bigside as fresh as possible ahead of the game.

As the two sides went back to the changing rooms to get their last minute preparations done ahead of this clash for the Jamie Waters Trophy, the crowds began to swell with a good number of parents and an uncanny number of ‘off games’ pupils.

Both sides were being led by their Number 8’s, but it was Cheltenham who won the toss, choosing to kick off, it was to be one of very few early touches of the ball for them as Radley exploded right from the kick off.

A series of sweeping moves took them into the Cheltenham half before some searing pace from the Radley left wing took them deep into the opposition 22. They recycled the ball quickly for the fly half to waltz in under the posts, he easily converted to give Radley a 7-0 lead while Cheltenham had barely had a touch.

Radley’s power at close quarters was already looking like it would be a problem for Cheltenham all afternoon, such was their dominance of the scrum and the breakdown. On a greasy day like this, the scrum was always going to be important and so it proved.

Cheltenham are a good side though and realised that against such dominance at the breakdown the answer was to accept the conditions and make the game scrappy. ‘Organised Chaos’ as Scotland call it. This started to help, with their openside in particular causing problems, though a kickable penalty was given away but missed.

Eventually though the pressure told, the conditions were causing a lot of handling errors, and with Radley’s dominance at the scrum the amount of ball they had was eventually going to tell, with the left wing showing his pace again to score in the corner. The tough conversion drifted agonisingly wide.

Cheltenham’s fly half had by now started to get his bearings on the pitch, having been unable to warm up on it beforehand, and his excellent kicking game started to have it’s effect on the game. A series of pressurising kicks resulted in some end to end play, culminating with a Cheltenham scrum in the Radley 22 and for the first time in the game some decent field position.

Again though, Radley’s dominance of the scrum saw them regain possession and clear their lines. Yet another great kick form the Cheltenham 10 brought a penalty though after the kick chase won a penalty at the breakdown.

The kick was missed though and the referee blew for half time with Radley leading 12-0, but with Cheltenham looking threatening for the first time in the game.

Unfortunately for the away side though, early second half pressure from Radley resulted in a penalty and an extension of their lead. With their loosehead and inside centre taking on a lot of ball, and their scrum dominance only growing, the pressure they were putting on was immense.

With Cheltenham defending heroically at times just to stop the momentum it felt like a matter of time before the defensive wall would collapse, and so it proved.

With the Cheltenham defence stretched after constant Radley pressure, the scrum half eyed a gap at the fringe and wriggled his way over to dot down under the posts. The conversion was an easy one, giving Radley a 22-0 lead.

The then began to rather lose it’s edge as both sides looked as though they’d accepted the result, and with the conditions making playing attractive rugby nigh on impossible, the game looking as though it would just drift to the finish.

This though is where one of the great traditions of schoolboy rugby came to the rescue. With the 1st XV match kicking off later than everyone else, all the other teams drifted over to Bigside to cheer on their flagship sides.

With that, the game sparked back into life, with Cheltenham in particular looking to create opportunities. They switched their fleet footed left wing to full back, and he began to threaten at every opportunity.

They could never quite get the breakthrough though, and with the Radley scrum able to take care of any set piece ball, there was never any real danger of the home side letting in any serious opportunities.

With a 22-0 victory then, Radley deservedly lifted the Jamie Waters trophy for another year.

The Jamie Waters trophy was donated by the Waters family after their son Jamie, a Cheltenham pupil, was tragically killed in a car accident. The trophy is awarded to the winner of the Cheltenham v Radley match each year, this is its 10th year.

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