Hungerford played their first game of the season, having missed out on pre-season games due to last minute cancellations and not having ideal preparation due to  very limited contact training due to ground conditions. Slough were very much up for the game after  last seasons final game of the season being cancelled due to covid.

HRFC arrived with a strong squad – availability has been good, with a couple of new players, but losing some to university. Nick Blair continues his rugby at 10 partnering Henry Mills at 9, with Josh Pearce back at 8, Callum Hambrecht fit and raring to go at 12, and Harry Greenwood at 15. Skipper Dan Holley misses his first game ever due to his father’s wedding.

A short hard rain shower in Slough set up a greasy start to the game with Slough kicking off. HRFC hold possession, but Slough sensed the chance to counter-ruck hard at every opportunity. HRFC  tails were up and so was the aggression from the visiting side, dealing well with the Slough tactic and   forced  penalties from Slough at the breakdown. A neat territory kick from fullback Harry Greenwood set up a good field position and when the Slough defenders Slough gave  away a penalty  indiscipline, and the penalty was converted to give HRFC a 0-3 lead.

Slough answer back with a penalty of their own 3-3.

Calllum Hambrecht tested the water with a crunching tackle deemed just over the legal threshold, and was  sent to the bin for ten minutes. HRFC held their ground in open play but a scrum to Slough saw their 8 pick from the base, and break two tackles to score and convert against the run of play, 10-3.

Slough kept  the pressure up from the kick-off which went straight into touch – the resulting scrum from halfway allowed Slough to slot a neat 50-22 kick deep into the HRFC 22, but HRFC defence and lineout repelled the attack.

Hungerford's  lineout was in good  on form and  creating all sorts of problems for the home side. The Hungerford scrum also continued its strong form from last season – even without “The Mountain” Andy Mason at prop – and finally, after a scrum almost resulted  in a try, another neat move in Hungerford’s own half ended in Harry Greenwood scoring  to make it  10-8 at the half time whistle.

Slough applied early  pressure in the second half  and another penalty put them 5 points ahead 13-8. However, Hungerford’s aggressive go-forward was paying off and  Josh Pearce hit the corner and dotted down only for the but the referee to rule it out. Hungerford  tried  again driving over close to the line but were and held up.The  goal line drop out awarded to Slough who pump it straight downfield to scrum half Henry Mills. Mills sees acres of space, but also a drop goal opportunity, and with winger Ellis Hambrecht drawing fire, Mills cuts in and slots the drop goal to get the score back to 13-11.

Sustained pressure from the visitors in Slough’s 22 freed up  Callum Hambrecht to give him a direct run to the posts, with prop Gareth Morgan in support. Hambrecht offloaded  to Morgan who scores under the posts and is converted to put the score 13-18.

Slough had  their 13 sent to the bin, and Hungerford  shifted the attack to the centre channels,  pummelling at the weakened Slough back line. With minutes to go, and bodies tired and hurt, Slough capitalised on a penalty and put the pressure on Hungerford  in their own corner. The lineout failed  but Pearce knocks on into touch. Slough elect the scrum, which is turned over, and half-back Mills kicks the ball to touch to  end the game 13-18.

It was  close, tense game, with both sides playing good, technical, aggressive rugby, and Hungerford  knowing they have much more in the tank, especially with the return of Holley, Mason, and others in the next few weeks.

Head Coach Steve Allan commented “We talked about individual and team energy before the game, and how to direct it, and every player did their job for the 80 minutes. We’ve come a long way as a squad throughout pre-season – technically and physically - and the lads are very fired up for this season. Slough gave us a good hard opening game – they’re a dangerous team when they attack from the midfield and I was proud of the commitment from our lads to never give up”.

HRFC meet Tadley at home Saturday 10th September at 3pm.

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