Maidenhead make the long trek down to the South West this week, to tackle 6th placed Exmouth, who will be desperate to bounce back after suffering defeat at bottom club Hornets last week. With just 11 games left in this campaign, the race for 2nd place is really hotting up, with Newton Abbott, Bournemouth, Maids, Cleve and arguably Exmouth all still in contention. Dings Crusaders sit 8 points clear at the summit of SW Premier, and it would take a dramatic downturn in form, for them to now lose their grip on the Championship. However, like all before them at Braywick in the last couple of years, they did slip up last week against a dogged Maidenhead side.

Recent games at Maids have been almost Super Rugby-esque, high-scoring, free-flowing affairs with tries and attacking play very much the prominent feature, but someone forgot to read the script last week… Indeed, there was no lack of ambition from two teams who play an attractive brand, but defences came out on top, especially in the 2nd half, which saw just 3 points scored thankfully from the boot of Ed Keohane, to secure a 15-12 victory. The defensive shift from the home side will live long in the memory for those who witnessed it- wave after wave of Dings attack repelled by a stubborn magenta wall, which simply refused to be breached, even when down to 14 men. No doubt, Dave Perry was looking down on the boys in that last 20 minutes, and it served as a fitting tribute to the man.

This week’s contest is a different proposition, in likely, very different conditions. With heavy rain expected in Exmouth over the next 24 hours, the battle upfront takes on more significance, and after their 45-33 reversal to Maids earlier in the season, the Cockles will be gunning for revenge. Playmaker Tom Whelan is likely to feature at fly half for the home team, with threats outside him coming from centre Henry Goldson and fullback James Downie. In the pack, skipper Jack Fahy will lead from the second row, with the hooking duties from either young prospect Charlie Gibbings, who has played A-league for Bristol this season, or the more experienced Davy McGregor.

After a few weeks without a player interview, Andrew Darlington took time out from moaning and writing his food diary to enlighten us with some of his thinking:

*Name/nicknames- ‘Andrew Darlington’, ‘Darlo’, ‘Darlo number 1’, ‘the better brother’, ‘the better-looking brother’, ‘D-A-R-L-O’, ‘the favourite son’, ‘Skinny Sam Angell’.

*Position(s)- Prop, 12, just generally following my brother (through life).   

*Occupation- Full time Tank.

*Which Maids teammate would you least like to be stuck on a desert island with, and why? Dave Cole- he has a strange obsession with my belly button, which is turning sexual. He probably wouldn’t turn up anyway though, to be fair.

* Which Maids teammate would you most like to be stuck on a desert island with, and why? Sam Angell- he’d have a plentiful supply of sausage rolls. However, his conversation and injuries would be somewhat irksome, very quickly.

*What’s your favourite TV Programme? I like watching medleys of me and my girlfriend hugging and kissing on repeat.

*What hobbies do you have outside of rugby? Ultra-marathons and Ironman competitions- the one at Gourmet Chicken in Maidenhead is my current focus.

*If you could be any animal, what would you be and why? I’d like to be the snake in the video that Will Lawrence put in the Whatsapp group- very sexy, and seemed to get lots of attention.

*What would you like to achieve this season, both personally, and as a team? Personally, get fitter, and drive Myke Parrott into a break down, through incessant moaning at him on the pitch. As a team, finish top 3, and keep the home run going.

Congratulations must go to Andy McGregor, for securing the player of the month award, and hence becoming the first Indian to receive this award at Maidenhead RFC. No doubt a fine cigar will be lit in celebration, once his particular genre of tobacco is sourced by Head Coach Russell Bolton for him. Ryan Long will look to uphold his New Year’s resolution of not being drunk on Friday nights, by just sticking on the pints until midnight, before letting loose in the early hours of Saturday morning, whilst Dave ‘The Flake’ Cole, urgently scrambles the depths of his shallow imagination to conjure up another weak excuse for missing the bus trip.

Mandingo’s new technique of utilising his personal truncheon as a foam roller, has seen remarkable recent results in the physio room, with several injuries miraculously cured weeks ahead of schedule, including George Blewitt, who is sadly unavailable, due to his dog’s mother’s birthday. Much to the fury of Big Dom, Ellie Birch has been unceremoniously ditched by her latest squeeze, after details emerged of her 2-year affair with club pervert, Mike Andrew, who will travel to Exmouth with Ted Keohane, who hasn’t had a brawl since Bracknell away before Xmas. Upon hearing the news of his inclusion on the jailbus to Exmouth, and his impending re-initiation Karl Kempton exclaimed ‘this is the best day of my life, better than having kids’. We look forward to hearing details of his doghouse/potential divorce proceedings on Sunday morning…

Maids team (1st XV caps in brackets):

1.       M Parrott (c) (169)

2.       M Darlington (15)

3.       A Darlington (15)

4.       S Hallett (15)

5.       L Leonard (14)

6.       W Cadden (72)

7.       T King (8)

8.       D Cole (12)

9.       P Jansen (77)

10.   L Ellis (3)

11.   S Prince (26)

12.   R Long (94)

13.   E Keohane (78)

14.   M Burnett (54)

15.   J Robinson (16)

16.   L Jones (68)

17.   S Churchyard (64)

18.   K Kempton (43)

Come on you Maids!