Downing Treat – Redboys Shocked by League Strugglers
RUGBY: DAN ADDIS watches the Redboys crumble as the season nears crunch-time
Downing 28-23 St. John’s
With John’s at the head of the league and Downing languishing far behind, this may have been seen as an easy game to call. Added to this was the one-sided victory John’s had inflicted on last term, meaning they should have been very confident going into this one.
This confidence was misplaced. Downing, back to full strength, played with an aggression and forcefulness they haven’t shown yet this season. On a wet, slippery day where extensive back moves were unproductive the Downing forwards went about their business with a snarl, running hard, straight lines and suffocating John’s at scrum time.
The Downing front row of John Walker, Sandy Shanklin, and Dan Addis really did a number on their opponents who didn’t know what hit them. With better control at the base of the scrum Downing could really have turned the screw on John’s there all game. However, they had to suffice with the hard running of Max ‘man-mountain’ Mather from number 8 and Thomas ‘the tank-engine’ Rees, playing out of position at 13, who both consistently broke the gain-line leaving the John’s defensive line reeling.
That is not to say that the game was all about punching it up the middle. A few moves from both sides managed to free the game up, giving a great spectacle for all those watching from the sidelines. Early on Downing’s flying winger Jack Scott almost went over in the corner, and the tries eventually came from Luke Thompson and Max Mather from short bursts near the line. John’s did reply before half time, manufacturing an overlap in the Downing 22 scoring in the corner.
With their 10 kicking penalties with aplomb, John’s were always within sight, especially at the beginning of the second half where they had their first concerted efforts in the Downing half. But thanks to the quick-stepping Keith Hagyard, stepping past John’s fullback Tom Prys-Jones, and Giles Rought-Whitta sneaking over, Downing were far enough ahead for the Redboys’ final try in overtime to mean little to the overall result.
All in all Downing can be extremely proud of breaking their 10 year drought against John’s in the league and are a formidable obstacle for any team the rest of this season. John’s are still favourites for the league title, but with Jesus sitting top, admittedly with a game in hand, this league is far from a foregone conclusion.
Photos courtesy of Graham Bates