|Date||30 September 2017|
|Venue||Bank of England Sports Centre|
|Result||W 31 - 18|
|Time played||Normal time|
An uncharacteristically soggy pitch played host to two of only three unbeaten sides remaining in Herts & Middlesex 1 this Saturday - Royston and the Bank of England. A tough test awaited Bank at home, despite being buoyed by the return of key front row forwards Mullard and Nelson-Esch.
With the sky brightening marginally, Royston got the match underway. From the first minute, Bank found themselves on the receiving end of very direct Royston rugby. Under pressure in their own half, Bank conceded an early penalty via some lazy breakdown work. Duly slotted, it was first blood to the visitors, 3-0. Bank failed to find their rhythm in reply, with the opposition 12 finding Royston good territory from an able right boot. A well drilled Royston pack then showed impressive structure from a five man lineout to trundle a maul over the line and make it 8-0.
With now characteristic grit, Bank wrestled back the run of play, using the big carriers of Dale, Mullard, Jones and Nelson-Esch to get Royston on the back foot. After sustained pressure in the Royston 22, Dale’s jiggery pokery saw him come close to opening the Bank scoring, but he was held up over the line. The resultant scrum saw the start of a dominant day for the Bank pack, with the tight five asserting control. From a strong platform, the backline fired the ball to Lunn at inside centre. Running well from short range, and with a crunch audible from the touchline, he broke through two tackles to cross the whitewash - 7-8 to Bank.
In true Bank fashion, when it rains, it pours. Buoyed by the opening try, the backline started to link well. Marshalled effectively by a new look half-back pairing, Scothern and Plant, it wasn’t long before Elderton made a searing clean break through the Royston defence. Palmer showed good awareness and speed to stay with the centre, receiving a tidy offload to cross for the home side’s second try. Plant, assigned the kicking duties, duly added the extras. 14-8 to Bank.
In the dying minutes of the first half, the Bank pack produced a cohesive effort at the lineout to manoeuvre a maul from 20 metres out, resulting in prop Ross Mullard crossing for his first try of the season. 19-8 at the break, Bank had recovered well, but needed to adapt quickly in the second half. After an excellent first half display, Walby and Lunn went off with injuries, meaning the second half would require winger Hutchinson to embrace a baptism of fire at blindside flanker.
With tiring bodies and an empty bench, Bank lost focus at the start of the second period, conceding two almost identical - albeit soft - tries via the Royston rolling maul. At 19-18, Bank’s slender lead seemed to ignite a renewed sense of grit in defence. Sterling efforts from Hadley and Nelson-Esch kept out the newly invigorated men from Royston.
Despite being reduced to 14 men courtesy of a somewhat harsh yellow card for James Marshall, Bank rallied well to begin to rattle a tiring Royston side. With Will Spencer ably deputising at 12, a deft dummy saw him break the deadlock with 15 minutes remaining, crossing for a second try in as many games. Plant converted well from an awkward angle to take Bank eight points clear.
Not content to leave it there, Bank continued to bombard Royston, using the the width and pace well. Camped deep in Royston territory, a succession of phases at the fringes of the breakdown led to Marshall exploiting the resultant space out wide. An ever-present Will Powles collected well on the wing to take a fifth and decisive try for the home side. The final whistles moments later confirmed a third consecutive bonus-point victory for Bank, 31-18. With notable mentions for Hadley’s defensive grit and Hutchinson’s aggressive display on the wing, the man of the match honours went eventually to captain Chris Palmer. A deserved accolade after a classy attacking display from the number 8.
This weekend, from the darkest depths of Hertfordshire came Bank’s toughest test to date. Now, as the only remaining unbeaten side in the league, Bank make the trip to Watford next week to meet an old foe with somewhat cautious confidence.