In their second outing of preseason, Maids made their annual trip to West London, to take part in the Grasshoppers tournament, with 9 other similarly-matched sides, split into two groups of 5. After a late pull out from Welsh touring side, Tycroes, newly-promoted National 3 London team, Sutton & Epsom came in as a replacement into Maids’ group, along with Old Priorians, London Scottish Development and Marlow.
Game 1 v Old Priorians
This was a tough opening test for Maids, against a side who finished strongly in parallel league, London 1 North last season. During a scrappy first half, where defences were on top, Maidenhead had Tom Stileman to thank for the clean sheet, after he tackled his opposite man over the try line, somehow holding him up, to prevent what looked to be a certain score. Maids were unlucky not to take the lead, after a good period of pressure, saw Lewis Jones knock the ball on over the try line from short range. 0-0 at half time.
The 2nd period was a slightly more fluent affair, with Maids starting to get in their groove, albeit against a fierce wind and tough Old P’s defence. With Ed Keohane pulling the strings, and Christoph Bart looking dangerous with ball in hand, a score looked inevitable, but it was the men from Ealing who came closest. After several good phases of play, the ball was shipped out wide, for a certain try, and with the winger strolling over for 5 points, the game looked over. Frankie O’Keeffe had other ideas though, and somehow got his hands on his man, wrapped him up, and turned him on his back, holding the ball up to prevent a certain try. Commenting on his heroics after the game, O’Keeffe proclaimed ‘that’s a move I’ve performed a thousand times, in the clubs of Bangkok.’ Final score, 0-0.
Game 2 v Marlow
Maids played out a 29-25 victory over their local rivals, just over a week prior to this, but with barely a recognisable face in the Marlow team from that night, it was tough to predict the kind of challenge they’d face. Fortunately, it was a perfect start for the Berkshire men, with new signing, Will Macauley crossing in the first minute, ably assisted by fellow new signing, Jack Hill. Hill then scored an excellent solo effort, which was followed by a try from Callum Jamieson, to give a 19-0 half time advantage.
Early in the second half, recent Colt, Dan Morgan, produced one of his textbook breakdown turnovers, which gave Maids possession of the ball, in which another attack was launched. Centres Hannigan and Bart then combined well, to put Bart under the posts for try number 4, before Marlow pulled one back. There was just enough time for Tom Simpson to round his opposite man, and score in the corner, before revealing his t-shirt, in tribute to his ill cat, and performing his very own try celebration, where he got on all fours, and mimicked his cat drinking from the milk bowl. Full time, and 31-5 to Maidenhead.
Game 3 v London Scottish Development
This was a potential banana skin for Maids- Scottish boasted a pacy backline, and had come close to beating pre-tournament favourites, Sutton and Epsom in the opening game, losing just 7-5. Maidenhead started off strongly in this match, and from an Ed Keohane penalty in the corner, it looked as though the well-formed rolling maul that was rumbling towards the line was a certain opening score, before a rush of blood to the head, from Lewis Jones, saw him break off, only to be held up short of the line, and get turned over. He did however, make up for this error two minutes later, along with hooker Nic Jones, and the impressive young tight head Umar Marriott, who drove the Scottish pack over their own line from a scrum, for skipper Ryan Long to dot down. More excellent work from the front row saw this repeated 3 minutes later, with another hefty push, which was then finished by Mark Childerhouse, giving a half time score of 12-0.
The second half was the Tom Stileman show, seeing him score a quick fire hat-trick, after some very precise and accurate work from the Maidenhead backline. Scottish scored a late consolation, to give a little respectability to the scoreline, which ended 29-5.
Game 4 v Sutton and Epsom
A change in format to this years’ tournament, meant that only the top placed side in the group qualified, going straight into a final, versus the winner of the other group. Following 3 wins from 3 so far, Maidenhead would have to beat Sutton and Epsom to qualify for the final against fellow group winners, Sevenoaks. Sutton quickly demonstrated why they’re now a Nat 3 side, with impressive ball retention, going through multiple phases, though thwarted by a strong Maids defence, and the quick-thinking of Will Macauley at the breakdown. Alas, it was S & E who found the break through, again, from good phase play, which created a gap for number 8, Matt Whittaker to sneak over, for an unconverted try. Despite being 2nd best for much of the half, Maids responded just before half time, when Tom Stileman pounced on a neat grubber from Ed Keohane, to tie the scores at the break, 5-5.
Maids started strongly in the 2nd period, knowing that a draw (thanks to Myke Parrott’s expert pre-game analysis) wasn’t enough, and took the game to Sutton and Epsom. A series of strong forays into the opposition half, eventually saw Sutton concede a penalty, which Keohane duly knocked into the corner. The lineout was taken cleanly, and an expertly controlled driving maul was taken to the line, with hooker Nic Jones placing the ball down, to put Maidenhead in the lead, 10-5. At this point, the referee signalled 1 minute, 30 left, a period Maids felt they would be able to successfully defend against. 7 minutes later however, after various kicks to touch from penalties, Sutton and Epsom scored, to tie the game at 10-10, and send them through. A gutting result for the boys, but a good effort, against a strong side.
Game 5 v Grasshoppers (Bowl Final)
The result of the final group game, meant Russ Bolton’s men faced tournament hosts Grasshoppers, in the Bowl Final. Maids enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in this opening half, and they crafted an opportunity out wide, for Alex Cannon to race in from just inside his own half, to put the boys ahead, 7-0. This was nearly added to, after substantial pressure on the opposition line, until Leroy Meek, arguably the biggest player on the park, was held up by the opposition scrum half. The opening half finished 7-0, but Maids were confident of adding to their tally in the second period.
Bolton made 10 changes at half time, to give the whole squad a runout in this final game, but the incoming substitutions didn’t stall their dominance. Grasshoppers had more of the ball after the break, but wave after wave of attack, was robustly repelled, until the home side kicked away possession. Straight away, Maids made good yards, until Hannigan crossed close out, following some lovely hands from fly half Jamieson, and then centre, Keohane. This was the final score, giving Maids a 12-0 victory, and the Bowl Winners’ Trophy.
All in all, a highly successful day, which saw the boys unbeaten, and plenty of game time for all 25 members of the squad. Luckily, the only injury casualty, was a suspected concussion to James Emmanuel, following a punch from his opposite man, which we have heard was sponsored by Bar Manager, Dominic Birch. A special mention must go to recent Colts, Umar Marriott, Joel Greene, Scott Prince and Dan Morgan, who settled in seamlessly. Maids finish their preseason campaign at home to Fullerians this Thursday (August 25th), before kicking off their league season away to Royal Wooton Bassett RFC on September 3rd.
L. Jones, N. Jones, Marriott, Britton, Nicolatos, Emmanuel, Meek, White, Muil, Macauley, Greene, Long, Morgan, Childerhouse, Hill, Keohane, Jamieson, Prince, Hannigan, Skelton Bart, Stileman, O’Keeffe, Simpson, Cannon.
Come on you Maids!