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Radley determination sees off Eton

Sometimes winning rugby matches is not about playing well or about dominating any particular area of the game; sometimes winning rugby matches is about pure desire.

Radley’s 22-10 victory over Eton was one of those games, Eton dominated territory and possession for most of the game through a powerful driving maul that provided them with the perfect platform from which build yet Radley still managed to win through their sheer tenacity and desire.

Part of that desire and tenacity must have come from the buoyant crowd on Radley’s Bigside pitch, Eton had a sizeable travelling support for this prestigious fixture but the home support was simply outstanding, they sang and cheered from start to finish, it was inspirational at times.

It was perhaps never more inspirational than right at the beginning of the game as supporters lined the path from the changing rooms to the pitch, creating a corridor of noise to cheer the home side onto the pitch before surrounding it to form a cauldron like atmosphere.

It certainly appeared to work, Radley came flying out of the traps, putting Eton under all sorts of pressure as they surged into the 22, punching holes through the defence to set up a superb try and give them a 5-0 lead within minutes.

Eton were not uninspired themselves though and in response to that score the really grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, using their powerful and organised forward pack to make huge inroads.

Their most successful tactic was the driving maul, it was providing them with so much momentum and such a solid platform that their fly half was able to enjoy the full range of options when he received the ball. It was also causing Radley serious problems as the only way they could stop it was to haul the maul down, resulting in penalties that set up further opportunities for Eton’s maul.

First it allowed Eton to narrow the scores to 5-3 from a penalty, however it was to get worse for the home side as their number eight was sent to the sin bin for pulling the Eton maul down.

Radley repelled the Eton onslaught from that penalty but were powerless to do so at the next as the Eton maul bulldozed its way through for their loosehead to barge over.

The conversion gave them a 10-0 lead, a lead that they deservedly took in to the half time break. Despite it being just a five point lead it felt bigger, such was the momentum that Eton had managed to create with those mauls.

The momentum continued into the second half as the away side picked up where they left off, mauling their way deep into Radley territory.

It was with some surprise then that with their first foray into the Eton 22 for some time Radley began to string some dangerous phases of play together as they utilised their excellent composure to wait for an opportunity before sending their big number eight over to atone for his earlier card.

The conversion, like the first, hit the post but suddenly with the scores tied both sides suddenly seemed to realise that the tide of the game and the scoreboard are two different things and that all that mattered was keeping your side of the board ticking over.

Both sides traded missed penalties, with Radley hitting the post for the third time in the game – a tough situation for the kicker who could not really have been suffering a more unlucky day with the boot. His side maintained the pressure from the rebound though, reacting fast to make sure that they kept the ball in opposition territory.

Their tenacity paid off as with the Eton defence stretched again they used the pace in their backs to go charging over for a third try and a 15-10 lead.

Eton responded like a champion side though, forcing themselves back into Radley territory from where they laid siege on the Radley try line for much of the rest of the game.

Try as they might though they simply could not breach the line, even the maul could not get them across, it was still causing problems but the Radley defence had clearly decided that no matter how tough they found it they were not letting Eton cross their line with the maul again.

As proceedings moved towards the final play Radley began to cough up a few penalties but with five points to make up Eton were forced to run their penalties, something Radley seemed more than happy for them to do as they continued to soak up the pressure through some excellent defence.

That tenacious defending was to cough up one glorious final reward though as they eventually forced a turnover, receiving the ball their outside centre spotted a gap and absolutely seared through it, carving his way through the defence to accelerate towards the Eton 22.

Such was Eton’s determination though that they managed to chase back, rapidly bearing down on the Radley escapee, however then came the brilliance, a delightlful offload from the Radley 13 left their right wing with open space in front of him and room a plenty to ‘Ash Spalsh’ his way over – it was a stunning few seconds of rugby.

The conversion made it 22-10 and with it came the final whistle and the loudest cheer of all from this magnificent Radley crowd. It brought to a fascinating game to an end, Eton had been in the ascendancy for much of the game and in their driving maul they had the most dangerous weapon on either side. However Radley won through their heart and determination and their clinical approach to taking their chances. While Eton may have camped in Radley territory for vast periods of the game, Radley spent very little time in Eton’s 22 yet they were so clinical that it is hard to remember many occasions where they did not return from it with points.

It was a truly special game to watch, and a brilliant atmosphere to soak in – if there were ever a game that summed up all that is good about schoolboy rugby, this might well have been it.

Final Score: Radley 22-10 Eton

Photos of the game are available on our Facebook Page, Highlights of the match are on our School Rugby pages.

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