Cheltenham Tigers 23-17 Avon
Western Counties North
Prince of Wales Stadium
11th Oct 2014
By Steve Bird
Avon had to settle for a losing bonus point at Cheltenham as they went down to a 23-17 loss
Making their first ever visit to the impressive facilities at the Prince of Wales Stadium, Avon hoped to enjoy the perfect playing conditions but soon found themselves 3 points down from an early penalty by Australian fly half Zak Atallah. This proved to be an indication of the match as it was a stop-start affair, constantly interrupted by the referee’s whistle, despite being neither niggly nor disruptive.
Avon levelled through a Rob Fitch penalty but, with their set piece not functioning smoothly, went behind again through another Atallah penalty. For a while, Avon started to put together some concerted moves and created a promising attack which drove their hosts back rapidly before their flanker was penalised for a cheap shot against Jake Dixon. Avon reacted well with a repelled lineout catch and drive leading to a 5 yard scrum which had only one outcome as skipper Kai Harwood powered over for the try, converted by Fitch.
Perhaps relaxing with the lead against 14 men, Avon made what proved to be a decisive mistake as poor midfield defence allowed Tom Lait to crash over under the posts to give Cheltenham a 13-10 half time lead.
After the interval, Avon’s powerful scrum really put the screws on the home defence but weren’t able to build up any momentum due to a series of mystifying penalties in promising attacking positions. However a dynamic burst from Chas Meddick broke the gain line and swift handling from the backs almost resulted in a try in the opposite corner before Harwood again barged over the whitewash from short range for his 5th try of the season.
With Fitch converting, Avon enjoyed a close lead and really needed to score next to pressurise their opponents but instead conceded another penalty from Atallah to narrow the gap to a single point.
Another flurry of unnecessary yellow cards saw Cheltenham’s and Avon’s second row plus Avon’s fly half spending spells in the sin bin as the game wasn’t allowed to develop any concerted momentum by either side. Then with 5 minutes remaining, an Avon tap down from a line out near their own line was grateful snapped up by Syd Haskayne for the winning try, again converted by Atallah.
Now chasing the game, Avon launched a ferocious attack, turning down several penalties in an attempt to find the elusive winning score but despite successive powerful close quarter drives from Meddick, Harwood, Dixon, Burnell and Book, Cheltenham’s defence was outstanding and secured a close win.
Avon 2nds moved to top of Somerset 3 with an exciting 42 – 22 win over Keynsham.
The home team were quick to capitalise scoring the first points despite the torrential rain and after 25 minutes Avon were staring at a 10 point deficit. Then Alex Happer broke through for Avons first try with Aaron Sawyer adding the extras on the 30 minute mark. Soon after Greg Hammer went over for Avons second try, again converted by Sawyer. Keynsham kept adding to their scoreboard tally so by half time Avon trailed by 3 points. After the interval, Avon come out with a different attitude and really started to put the pressure on. This resulted in Avon breaking through their defences time after time with further tries from Charlie Bieber-Harland, Alex Gee, Luther Powell and veteran Stuart Thompson, with Swayer adding the extras.