Rugby St Andrews 32
Brackley suffered another defeat, but this was a vastly improved performance on recent weeks.
In their previous four outings, Brackley had scored just three tries; at home to fourth-placed Rugby St Andrews they managed to score three in one match, their highest strike rate of the season.
Rugby St Andrews almost invariably seem to bring out the best in Brackley and this entertaining encounter was no exception, with end-to-end play from start to finish before the visitors ran out winners by five tries, two conversions and a penalty goal against three tries and a conversion.
The key to Brackley’s enhanced attack was the inspired switch of 34-year-old Graeme Cartmell from centre to loose head prop.
Displaying enormous energy in the loose, Cartmell created havoc as he made good his three-quarters’ speed and experience to spot and exploit openings in the opposition defence. Closely supported by the lively back row of Karl Aran, Seb Johnson and Mark Herlihy, Cartmell posed a constant threat, twice breaking clean away to cross the Rugby St Andrews’ line.
Rugby St Andrews opened the scoring after seven minutes’ play with an unconverted try from inside centre Mark Brightwell. Cartmell’s first try then levelled the scores before fullback Ryan Taylor nudged the visitors ahead with a penalty goal at the end of the first quarter.
A fine break by Taylor on the stroke of half time brought a try and conversion to stretch Rugby St Andrews’ lead at the interval to 15-5.
After an unconverted try from flanker Matt Butlin stretched that lead still further, Brackley’s number eight Herlihy crashed over to peg it back to 10 points but Rugby St Andrews still had plenty in the tank.
Right wing Sam White was next to touch down, with Taylor adding the two points, then left wing Tom White added a fifth try to complete the visitors’ scoring. But Cartmell was not done yet. Chased home by Rugby St Andrews’ outside centre, the player with number one on his back raced round the posts for his second try of the match, converted by replacement fly-half Alfie Ling. Brackley complete their league programme with a visit to Corby this weekend when mid-division Stewarts & Lloyds no doubt will be seeking to avenge their 15-14 loss to Brackley at the beginning of the season.
Olney U15s 22
Brackley U15s 26
History was made as Brackley won heir first ever East Midlands Shield final.
Brackley started well and after several phases of play, fly-half Max Titchener, not held after being taken to the ground, got up and found a gap in the defence. A neat hand-off saw him score a try under the posts within the first five minutes and he converted his own try. Immediately Olney hit back, and scored two very well worked tries.
Brackley collected their kick off and some brilliant work by the forward pack in the rucks led to the no 8 sidestepping his way into the corner for an unconverted try to take it to 12-12. As the kick-off pinned Brackley in their half, a penalty given against the visitors saw Olney’s fly half nail three points for his team to regain the lead again. Pushed back to their 22, Brackley made use of their possession as Titchener hit a crossfield kick, which saw winger Aaron Andrews pounce onto the ball and race to score under the posts, Titchener converting.
The half ended 19-15 in Brackley’s favour. Straightaway in the second half, Olney’s outside centre’s mazy run down the wing saw him score a converted try under the posts. Brackley bounced back when they won a scrum and flanker and captain Tom Earl powered his way to score under the posts, with Titchener converting. Olney then gained possession and worked their way to within inches of the try line, only for the defence to reign supreme, and as Olney committed a knock on, the referee blew the whistle for full time to the cheers of Brackley’s players and supporters.