There are times when you have to hold your hands up and admit you were beaten by the better side on the day. Felsted were better at executing their game plan than Berkhamsted, who got drawn into playing a loose game at which the home team were the better exponents.
Felsted are an outstanding counter-attacking side, and there is a truism that a side is at its weakest defensively when they are attacking. This was evident in the first minute of the game when Berkhamsted, having gone through several phases in attack and having threatened the Felsted line, over-extended, lost the ball, and found themselves facing a 4 on 1.
After going the length of the field, the home side got over for a fine try in the left corner to go 5-0 up. The next 10 mins saw Berkhamsted with plenty of promising situations, but three significant handling errors, when trying to ‘force the game’ saw these come to nothing.
On 15 mins, however, the scores were level. A Berkhamsted scrum to the right of the posts surely wheeled more than 45 degrees and probably ought to have been re-set, but the referee allowed the game to proceed. This was followed by a couple of handling errors, but on neither occasion did the referee deem the ball had gone forward as Berkhamsted managed to get the ball wide left. Some quick feet by scrum-half Mark Williams set up field position for Cameron Pope to be driven over. Hardly a text-book try, but it was 5-5.
On 22 mins Berkhamsted lost their own line-out on half way and Felsted launched a powerful attack down the left, with their talented full-back looping round. Berkhamsted ‘s scramble defence kept them out, but a Felsted scrum to the left of the posts set up a good attacking position, from which he Berkhamsted defence was opened up for a try by the posts for 12-5.
Felsted had played the half with a stiff breeze behind them and, when the half-time whistle came prematurely after 33 mins, Berkhamsted felt that the game was there to be won. However, after 8 mins Felsted won the ball against the head near half-way and, when Berkhamsted infringed at the breakdown, the ensuing penalty gave the home side a two-score lead, which looked as if it might prove decisive.
Despite playing 25 mins without fly-half Josh Barton, Berkhamsted for the first time in the game began to go through the phases. A couple of likely scores opened up but both failed to materialise as individuals ran away from support, were isolated, and the ball was turned over. Nonetheless, after first 12 mins of the half, and then again 4 mins later, Felsted infringed under pressure, and winger Finlay Cripps slotted two well-struck penalties from 30m out to bring us back to within a score at 15-11. After 3/4 of the game the result lay very much in the balance and Berkhamsted were on the front foot.
Sadly, Berkhamsted lost their way in the last quarter and failed to impose their game on the opposition. The Felsted backs continued to look dangerous. From a line-out on the left they stretched us wide right. Some heroic defence kept them out when a gap opened up, but when the ball came back inside Berkhamsted conceded a crucial penalty for 18-11.
With time running out, on 31 mins the Berkhamsted scrum came up and Felsted kicked the penalty for an attacking line-out on the right. The ball was moved beautifully left at pace and an exquisite pass put the left wing away at speed to score a try which was converted for 25-11.
Even so, Berkhamsted did not give up, and from the last play created a 2 on 1 on the left wing, but the pass was knocked on under no real pressure with the line begging. A disappointing end to a disappointing performance, which is to take no credit away from the home side, who scored three lovely tries of which any side would have been proud. However, the fact that two of the three tries came indirectly from us losing our own first-phase ball, and a third from us being turned over when attacking, gives pause for thought to Berkhamsted coach, Ben Mahoney.
By Dick Mowbray, Berkhamsted
Full Time: Felsted 25-11 Berkhamsted