Barns Green moved within one point of Stage One rivals Steyning with two games to go.
Games against Midhurst have always been a hard-fought and feisty affair and with a red, yellow and plenty of trys this wasn’t going to be any different. Communication from Midhurst was that they wouldn’t be able to field at full 15 which meant Barns Green had to lend some players and compete in a 13 vs 13 match. Tom Green and Tom Whittington were the men who were sacrificed and without them, the game would not have gone ahead and Barns Green wouldn’t have secured their bonus points.
Buoyed from their emphatic win over Crawley the week before, Barns Green were keen to continue their momentum and push for a top 3 spot for the second half of the season and it didn’t take long until their ambition became clear with two quick trys.
After mounting pressure from the forwards, BG found themselves with good attacking ball on the Midhurst 22. Quick distribution from scrum-half Thomas Bouet and then through the backline, put Wilson in for his first try of the season. It wasn’t long until Barns Green got another when Wilson cut infield drawing the full-back and put Cooper in for his third try of the season.
The joy however was short-lived. Midhurst taking a quick restart to the other side of the field caught BG off guard. Wilson slipped as he tried to collect the ball resulting in a knock-on and scrum 10 meters from the BG line. Barns Green did well to stop the first two phases from the resulting scrum, but Midhurst eventually managed to get over the line to make it 12-5.
Making his first appearance of the season, Mike Mann restored order by crashing over the line taking defenders with him after some heavy forward’s pressure making the score 17-5 with not long left on the clock.
It was with just over ten minutes until halftime that the game saw its flashpoint. The Barns Green back's speed was proving difficult to contain although Midhurst was putting up a determined effort. Nick Cooper found himself in space when he received a dangerously high tackle from the Midhurst scrum-half. After a push back, the Midhurst scrum-half punched Cooper in front of the ref which resulted in players running in to defend their teammates pushing and shoving in the centre of the pitch. Once both teams were separated, the Midhurst scrum-half was shown a red card and Conway was shown a yellow.
After the flashpoint, Barns Green managed to extend their lead and claim their try bonus point just before halftime. Jarrod had been running strong all day and finally got his reward when he broke a couple of tackles and crashed over the line.
Half time was blown, and Barns Green was 22-5 up but knew they had spurned some good chances. Keep together, stick to the system and keep your discipline were the orders from Serna at halftime. The boys were feeling positive that they could go on and put more points on the board and get out of Midhurst with the win.
The boys were keen to start the first half well and get on the score sheet early and that’s exactly what captain Thomas Bouet did when Tom Smith broke the line getting tackled 3 meters short. A swift pop-up to Bouet who broke a few tackles and stretched for the line pushing the score to 27 – 5.
With Conway back on the pitch, Barns Green was back to their full strength. The Midhurst penalty count began to climb as they tried to get some meaningful possession. 10 meters from the line they were caught with their hands in the honey pot. Conway saw his opportunity and took a quick tap and charged for the line managing to break tackles on his way to dotting down for Barns Green's 6th try of the day.
Midhurst wasn’t without their moments of dangerous attack. For some time, Barns Green was feeling the pressure in their own 22. Some tenacious defending from the backs kept the defiant Midhurst at bay until they managed to get over the line with some hard running from tap and go penalties.
After a number of penalties went against Barns Green resulting in a Midhurst try, calls of ‘calm’ and ‘play like winners’ were heard from the huddle. Mike Mann dutifully stepped up to the call by scoring his second of the day and of the season.
Both teams were starting to tire as they had to cover the extra space with reduced players. This opened up some gaps for Midhurst to advantage of and which nearly resulted in trys if it wasn’t for more spirited and last-ditch defending from Wilson, Cooper, Hoyte and Van Blerk.
Jarod Van Blerk capped off a fine performance with his second try of the day. After looking dangerous all game, he managed to break through a number of tackles to tumble over the line with defenders in tow.
The referee blew his final whistle and the game ended 17 – 44 with Barns Green securing the bonus points to move just one point behind Steyning. Midhurst put on a determined display and the effort of their players couldn’t be faulted.
Captain Bouet commented after the game “Midhurst proved to be a typical dogged and prickly opposition and, after the uncertainty in the build-up, we were pleased to leave with the maximum points haul. We will assess what went right and what went wrong and look ahead to the game against Pulborough".
Barns Green will return home to face Pulborough on the 30th before their final game of stage one against league leaders Steyning.
Try Wilson - 1 Cooper - 1
Van Blerk – 2
Mann – 2
Conway – 1
Bouet - 1
Conversions Cooper - 2
Man of the Match
1. Matthew Taylor
2. Stephen Whittington
3. Danny Conway
4. James Dickson
5. Tom Smith
6. Carl Brewster (vc)
8. Mike Mann
9. Thomas Bouet (c)
10. Matthew Hoyte
11. George Wilson
12. Rory Yeates
13. Nick Cooper
15. Van Blerk