Thatcham 33 Wallingford 17
AFTER going off the boil since the new year and falling away from a promotion challenge, Thatcham resumed winning ways against a Wallingford side still casting a nervous glance at the Southern Counties North relegation places.
And a determined Wallingford side almost caught out the hosts from the kick off before Thatcham turned on the pressure and Tom Bestwick got the score from the catch and drive.
Wallingford got back into contention after taking advantage of a mistake at the line out to run through the gap to score and take the lead, and although the next spell saw flashes of good play from the home side, fluency was missing, despite individual efforts of Olly Roberts, Ash Taylor and Matt Langdon and Thatcham were soon forced into another reshuffle by injuries to both locks.
With the half drawing towards its close, Thatcham won a penalty and five-metre line out, but again it did not go to script and Wallingford came away with the ball to force a penalty and take the short line out, with a successful drive yielding a 12-5 interval lead.
Thatcham took little time to pull level after the re-start however, Joe Leadley making the decisive break to put Marty Butler into the gap for the touchdown and with the wind at his back, Leadley made no mistake with the conversion.
The centre pairing of Jamie Evans and Marty Butler had looked impenetrable in defence and dangerous in attack and within 10 minutes Evans was put away beautifully by replacement and Newbury Building Society man of the match Mike Keeley, and he used the hand-off to good effect on more than one occasion to put Thatcham
Going into the final quarter, Thatcham prop Lewis Davies was replaced by centre Matt Billinghurst, requiring more reshuffling with Rob Lowe moving in to tight head. The game was still wide open as far as the visitors were concerned and they scored a well-deserved try out wide after the ball had been worked through several phases to make it
19-17 with the game there for the taking.
But once more Keeley made the difference by setting up winger Liam Rowland and Leadley again coolly converted from wide and having already set Wallingford the challenge of two scores to win, Thatcham put the result beyond doubt after winning a line out on the 22 and shifting through the hands to Billinghurst to ground under the posts for a seven-pointer.
Thatcham: Rance; Willis, Butler, J. Evans, Rowland; Leadley, Bailey; Langdon, Taylor, Davies (Billinghurst); Bestwick (Lowe), Roberts (Keeley); Bowes, Kanaaar-Brown, Smith.