Maidenhead travel to Oxfordshire neighbours Witney this week, hoping for a repeat of their 14-8 success, secured earlier in the season. Witney sit one position, and 6 points above Maids in 4th, so the match promises to be a close affair, as so often this fixture is.
Maids will be keen to arrest a frustrating pattern of wins at home, followed by an away loss, while the Oxon side want to bounce back from a close defeat away at Towcester a week ago. Witney have been on an impressive run of form since their defeat at Braywick in October, which has seen them beat high flying Salisbury, Oxford Quins, Windsor amongst others.
The Witney pack, featuring props Alan Richens and Robbie Richardson provide a solid foundation, for a quick, strong back line, marshalled by Henry Lamb, with centre Matt Clarke one to watch. Recent reports suggest the Maidenhead front row will be in for a tough afternoon, against an extremely impressive scrummaging unit. No doubt, the influence of former Maids 1st XV captain, Richie Craig (pictured above) has been a positive one in that department. We catch up with the Scotsman this week, to gather his thoughts ahead of the clash:
-you guys are flying this year- have you exceeded pre-season expectations?
“In a lot of respects we have exceeded expectations but in some we have not. The last two years we have finished 4th and 5th respectively. We felt we had a good team spirit within the club and with a few additions we could better these finishes. With that in mind though, we have also had a major upheaval within our squad. Our skipper, Jez Hicks was forced to retire due to shoulder issues as has our number 8, Joe Rowles(ankle). We have also had several other senior players having to lessen their commitment due to personnel reasons; Carl Strutt, James Monks and Henry Lamb to name a few.”
-in your opinion, what do you boys need to do, to achieve promotion in the next few seasons?
“To achieve promotion in the next few years we need to add more depth to our squad and continue to develop. We now have a system which we all understand and buy into. This can now be built on to create different problems for our opposition. The 2nd XV are playing some outstanding rugby with players able to step up and fit in seamlessly. The development of a strong 1st XV can only be sustained with the backing of a strong 2nd XV and Colts team. We have used several new colts this year who are 17 or 18 years old. These players have stepped up and shown they deserve to be there.”
-what do you expect from the match on Saturday?
“Saturday’s match will be a difficult encounter as all the games in this league are. The top 6 seem to be very well matched and anyone can win on their day. We will be hoping to pose enough problems for the Maidenhead team in both attack and defence that will allow us to come away with a win. We know Maidenhead always come with an added incentive when visiting Witney and the games for the last 2 years have been fiercely competitive. Having said that both teams and clubs seem to have a mutual respect and shared values which have allowed me to feel very much part of both these clubs.”
Maidenhead flyer Jaryd Robinson is away this week, watering Perry Jansen’s plants, whilst Tom Simpson is escorting his cat to the hairdressers. Tom Finnie returns to the starting lineup this Saturday, and it is hoped that Frankie O’Keeffe makes a full recovery from food poisoning, acquired from a fried dog pancake.
1/ Parrott (c), 2/ Jones, 3/ Britton, 4/ Churchyard, 5/ Emannuel, 6/ White, 7/ Muil, 8/ Long, 9/ Childerhouse, 10/ Jansen, 11/ Abiven, 12/ Heron, 13/ Bart, 14/ O’Keeffe, 15/ Finnie, 16/ Rawlings, 17/ Cadden, 18/ Skelton
The Witney team was unavailable at time of write up.
Come on you Maids!