Rushden & Higham 9
Another anguishing afternoon for Brackley in a contest they desperately needed to win if they’re to begin the climb away from the relegation zone in Midlands 3 East South.
In a try-less match at home to mid-division Rushden, Brackley took an early lead with a penalty goal which they maintained well into the second half until the visitors potted three of their own to march off with the spoils.
With a stiff breeze blowing in Brackley’s favour as the match got underway, it was vital for the home side to build a cushion of points before the interval.
They started purposefully enough, Mike Lowdell landing a penalty goal within two minutes and Brackley having Rushden so firmly on the rack as the half wore on that they turned down the opportunity of a second penalty goal, preferring instead to run the ball in search of a try.
That was to prove a costly decision. Throughout a 20 minute period of intense pressure, Rushden held fast, protecting their line to turn round just three points adrift.
Now with the wind behind them, Rushden took full advantage of the elements to pin Brackley down with kicks to the right hand corner. A penalty goal levelled the scores after 15 minutes of the second half and as the game’s momentum began to swing their way, Rushden & Higham struck again from long range to take a three point lead.
Realising that only a try could win them the match, Brackley took ball in hand in the closing minutes and pummelled Rushden line again and again, but could not find a way through. That was until number ten Tom Gray fielded a clearance kick in his own half and began a speculative run down the left wing.
Tackled near the Rushden ten-metre line, Gray found wing Phil Brinklow in close support, who showed a clean pair of heels to round the defence and sweep in for the match winning try.
But Brackley’s euphoria was short lived as the sight of an upraised flag indicated that Brinklow had put a foot in touch on his way to the line.
While elation gave way to disappointment, Rushden slammed the door shut with their third penalty goal.
Next week Brackley entertain Oadby Wyggestonians, currently lying in second place in the league.
Oadby handed out a ten try drubbing when the teams met earlier in the season.
Brackley will be seeking to make amends for that occasion.