Great Scott: Last-gasp try saves shambolic Shooters
(Tries: Cuschieri, Scott. Cons: Garett, Burnett)
Shooters Hill snatched a dramatic victory against lowly Bexley as Gareth Scott charged over the line on the last play of the game enabling the AXV to continue their winning run and move to the top of the Bishops Finger League.
However, the story could have been quite different as Bexley controlled the first sixty minutes of the game as Shoots struggled to find any fluency in their rugby.
Playing into a brisk wind in the first half, Shoots made a scrappy start and the home side took an early lead with a penalty – a lead they would not relinquish until the game’s dying seconds.
For the opening twenty minutes the game remained a fragmented affair: Gareth Scott at fly-half struggled to bring Shoots’ back-line into the match and his kicking game malfunctioned. Bill Merriman and Shaun Sloan made promising runs but Bexley had the better of the breakdown and it was no surprise when the home side, without a win all season, scored the opening try.
Following an attacking line-out on the Shoots five, Bexley rumbled forward and, after one phase, their second row was able to ground the ball. Using the old-school ‘divot’ technique to place the ball, Bexley’s kicker, a front-row forward, added the extras.
With no further score before half-time Shoots went into the interval 10-0 down and staring a chastening defeat in the face.
Ears ringing from an Ed Cullen riot act, Shoots made a more positive start to the second half with back row pairing Mouse and Tip finding some space around the fringes.
However, Shoots could not break the committed Bexley defence and, with frustration increasing, the penalty count began to go against the visitors as the referee found any excuse to punish perceived indiscretions.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Shoots finally kicked into gear and realised that direct running was hurting the opposition. A week clearing kick from Bexley gave Shoots a line-out in the opposition’s 22. Following a trundle forward, the ball broke to Martin Cuschieri and the second-row barreled through several tackles to score from ten yards out.
Jonny Garrett popped over the conversion, but this was to be his last contribution to the game as the outside-centre was sent-off minutes later for striking an opponent. A Bexley forward was also sent to the showers for his role in the fracas.
At 14-a-side the game opened up, with five minutes remaining and nerves beginning to tingle, Shoots were grateful when Bexley missed an opportunity to extend their lead, pushing a penalty wide of the sticks. From the resulting play Shoots steadily worked the ball downfield but were conscious that time was ebbing away.
As the referee called for the final play, Lee Brewer fed Gareth Scott. The fly-half, who had struggled all game, redeemed himself in spectacular style as he managed to bundle over from 20 yards to make the score 12-10. With Jonny Garett having an early bath, Carl Burnett kicked the conversion to complete a great escape.
“I didn’t think we were going to do it,” admitted captain Ed Cullen after the match. “But when we finally started to run direct, they couldn’t handle it. For the first sixty minutes we didn’t get out of the changing room. They wanted it and at the start we didn’t. But the way we played in the last twenty is why we’ve been blowing other teams in this league out of the water.”
The AXV travels to Brockleians next week in another crucial fixture in the battle for promotion.
Reporter: AG Welch