Old Northamptonians rounded off the first half of their league season with a hard-fought 18-3 win at Bugbrooke.
Most of the early play was between the 22 metre lines, with the home side just shading the territory.
The ONs’ tactic of hoisting the ball and shouting “wall” produced no gain as the kicking out of hand was abysmal, lacking the accuracy to put any pressure on the Bugbrooke back three.
Both teams also regularly infringed as they strove for dominance, with the penalty count rapidly approaching the mid-teens in this period.
Bugbrooke came closest to scoring when they quickly took a penalty and shipped the ball right but they were forced into touch and from the resulting lineout the ONs won a penalty to clear.
Jake Spencer was injured in the build-up, with Tom Harris moving to centre and Rowan Cooke coming on from the bench, and shortly after the ONs took the lead.
They attacked down the left touchline, patiently building through the phases and after Calum Brennan was stopped just short, the ball was transferred across field and Cooke finished. Tom Goodman added the conversion.
A successful Adrian Flynn kick put Bugbrooke on the scoreboard but with the half-time whistle imminent the ONs had a chance to increase their advantage.
They won a lineout on the opposition 22 and showed good continuity to drive the play in field forcing a penalty and a yellow card for Bugbooke.
Goodman’s strike hit the post but with no follow up chase, the danger was easily cleared.
ONs had no chance to make their numerical advantage count as Rhys Hughes was sin-binned minutes after coming on from the bench during the interval and it was Bugbrooke who had the better of the early second-half exchanges.
A Rory Seymour mark and clearance briefly relieved the pressure and when the home side again attacked, a strong run from Dave Irvine from close to his own line gave some respite.
A long-range attempt from Flynn fell just short and as the third quarter drew to a close, the ONs scored their second try.
After the visitors had combined effectively down the left, Seymour was hauled down deep into Bugbrooke territory and the forwards were on hand to recycle the ball. Play was spread to the right and Alex Croft powered over for his ninth try of the season.
Goodman missed the conversion but was on target minutes later to take the ONs 15-3 ahead.
Back came Bugbrooke but the visitors’ defence held firm and the final 10 minutes saw the ONs dominant.
A further penalty from Goodman with the last kick of the game made it 18-3.
Wellingborough 22 Old Scouts 12
Scouts suffered a rare defeat in their top-of-the-table clash with Wellingborough.
Both sides were close to full strength and the game lived up to its billing as they countered each other’s attacks throughout.
Boro took an early lead after eight minutes with a successful penalty from Pete Vickers.
This did not stop Scouts from playing their attacking style and they went ahead five minutes later when Adam Frost made a break that created enough width for him to find second row Iain Simmons, who crashed over in the corner for an unconverted try.
Vickers added his second penalty to put Boro back into the lead midway through the half.
Both sides were still defending well, although Boro claimed to have scored a try in a race to the line but Scouts winger Bobby Bland later claimed he had touched down first.
The half ended with further scoring as first, Vickers notched his third penalty, and then Scouts scored a converted try to put them into the lead at the break.
Scouts’ try had resulted from pressure at the restart from the penalty and scrum-half Matt Brown broke clear to sidestep the home full-back to dot down under the sticks for Frost to convert.
Scores were level early in the second half when the metronomic boot of Vickers converted another penalty and for the next 20 minutes both sides tackled ferociously to create a stalemate between the 22s.
The sticky conditions were beginning to take effect as the players tired, but with 15 minutes left on the clock a penalty was awarded to Boro. Vickers duly banged it over.
Scouts were still in with a shout, and to their credit continued to attack.
The game was settled when from one of these attacks the ball was spilled and Boro centre Gall picked up to run in from inside his own half.
Vickers added the extras and it was game over. Scouts heads didn’t drop and they took the game back to their hosts, but their efforts to gain a losing bonus point were in vain.
BBOB 26 Rushden & Higham 33
Rushden & Higham player-coach Stuart Ridings produced a powerhouse performance to lead his side to a bonus-point win at the Mill.
BB took two losing bonus points themselves, but were beaten again. BB started well, winning a turnover. David Abraham made the break for Ben Mann to score and make it 5-0.
Returning from Cambridge rfc, ex-captain Gavin Kendall won a lineout, BB went to the left and then right for Sam Hill to score. Jack Cullis converted and BB were 12-0 to the good.
This seemed to inspire R&H and they pummeled the BB line, turning down kickable penalties to go for scrums. The pressure told and r&h scored a converted try to reduce the deficit.
BB were not helping themselves, trying to play rugby in their own 22. Ridings’ powerful running in the centre was causing all sorts of problems as BB were falling off first-up tackles.
Ridings was the main instigator as r&h scored a further three tries and two conversions to go in at half-time 26-12 ahead with a bonus point in the bag.
The second half started as the first had finished with r&h on top, but Mann made an interception to score, Cullis added the extras to make it 26-19.
BB had another opportunity as they tried to go to the corner but kicked the ball dead. Then after taking a scrummage ball against the head, the ball was dropped on the pick-up.
BB were not to be outdone and No.8 Joe Robinson powered over. Cullis converted again to bring the scores level at 26-26.
BB needed to kick more to turn the tiring r&h pack but insisted on playing rugby and were penalised at the ruck. This time, Ridings lined up the kick at goal, which he missed.
But BB again neither touched the ball down or found touch, allowing r&h to run the ball back and set up the ruck for that man Ridings to power over next to the posts. The successful conversion made it 33-26.
Long Buckby 20 St Ives 6
Long Buckby overcame their injury problems to complete a 20-6 victory over St Ives at Station Road.
Bucks have been struggling for numbers, but got off to a flying start in this Midlands Three East South clash.
Buckby led 10-3 at half-time thanks to a try from Sam Thomas, conversion and penalty from Nick Denman.
Jonny Nixon scored Buckby’s second try, converted again by Denman. A second Denman penalty made it 20-6 and despite some late pressure from the visitors, Buckby held firm.
Daventry 33 Stockwood Park 14
DAVENTRY All Blacks overturned a 14-point deficit as they secured a crucial win over Stockwood Park in Midlands Three East South.
Daventry made it three consecutive bonus points wins at home, with a hard-fought victory at Stefen Hill.
This Saturday, it’s derby day as Daventry host rivals Long Buckby.