Keble 26 – 17 PembrokeOn paper this game should have been little more than a formality; it pitted the reigning champions against a side that started the year in Division 3. However, Pembroke came into the match in sparkling form following a double promotion and two comfortable victories. The game was an ideal opportunity to contrast the strongest pack in college rugby against one of its best back lines. After a nervous opening few minutes Keble began to show their class. With some powerful running from centres Max Cole and Euan Sadden, as well as some accurate work from the boot of Peter Bolton, they secured a line out deep in Pembroke territory which gave them an opportunity to exhibit their well disciplined rolling maul. This resulted in a drive-over try which was converted by Bolton. It failed to spark Pembroke into life however, and things went from bad to worse as Butcher was sent to the bin for killing the ball, and Bolton added the resulting penalty. The 14 men of Pembroke then began to regroup and string together some good play, with their midfield pairing of Catling and Horrocks starting to look dangerous. This eventually created an opportunity for winger Richard Haigh to link up with Catling to provide him with a well worked try from inside the Pembroke half. This good work was soon undone by ill discipline from Pembroke, as they strove to turn over the ball, allowing Bolton to score another penalty. Keble then scored from a rolling maul. This meant that Pembroke faced an uphill task in the second half being 20-5 down. Captain Piers Holden has managed to develop a streak of mental toughness in this Pembroke side and this began to show in the second half, good work by forwards Grossmann, Puxley and White as well as scrumhalf Neil Annett allowed Pembroke to get quick, clean ball and gave flyhalf Absalom the opportunity to release Catling and Horrocks for several breaks. This eventually resulted in Catling scoring an impressive try as he crashed past 3 or 4 desperate tacklers. Suddenly there was a shift in momentum and apart from a solitary Bolton penalty, Pembroke were on the front foot. Some elusive running by Etiene Ekpo-Utip created holes in the Keble back line. Yet once again Pembroke were their own worst enemies and just could not finish off the opportunities they created. A lifeline was provided, however, as fly-half Bolton missed a kick to touch and provided Pembroke fullback Adam Taylor with the chance to stretch his legs, eluding the Keble backs and culminating in a chip and chase for a score in the Keble corner. This proved to be false hope though, as Pembroke instantly conceded yet another penalty and Bolton easily made the kick to put the match beyond the men in pink. Despite this Pembroke continued to push for another score, but it proved to be beyond them. Their heroic challenge faltered as the ball was driven into touch. Although Pembroke can be proud of their showing, this was a controlled performance by a Keble side looking to continue their run of Cupper’s success in two weeks time.by Adam Taylor
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