A last-ditch Reading effort to grasp a victory proved unsuccessful in a tightly fought game against Witney.
The difference between the teams was Witney’s ability to take advantage of their opportunities in Reading’s 22 whilst Reading found it difficult to cross their opponents’ line, their only try coming from a last minute effort by Rob Cunningham.
Reading took an early lead from a penalty at the break down, which was advanced ten metres for a Witney player delaying play, and was converted by Tom Sharpe.
Witney struck back almost immediately and from a line out within the Reading half they kept possession through multiple phases eventually crossing under the posts for a converted try to give them a 7-3 lead.
This rush of scoring in the first five minutes was not a sign of things to come as for the rest of the first half the game developed into a dour battle in which the defences were on top.
Reading established a dominance in the scrums from which they earned frequent penalties whilst Witney were dominant in the line outs winning their own ball and disrupting Reading’s possession.
Witney looked better in attack but after their early try failed to penetrate the Reading defence whilst Reading’s scrum dominance gave them a good share of territory.
Towards the end of the half Reading had their best opportunities when Witney were reduced to thirteen men after two yellow cards in relatively quick succession.
However, Reading were unable to make use of their advantage as good defence and a series of handling errors stopped them from scoring before Witney were restored to full strength.
It was not until early in the second half that the next points were scored. These came from Witney who moved the ball out of their own half and forced a scrum near the Reading line from which they worked an overlap to score an unconverted try in the corner.
Reading soon reduced this lead when David kicked a penalty after Witney received another yellow card, this time for a high tackle. This made the score 6-12.
Reading’s general play was better in the second half and David was just brought down close to the line after a fine line break.
Reading again failed to force their way over the Witney line but did win a penalty which David converted to narrow the Witney lead to three points.
However, Witney then increased their lead with a fine opportunist effort from their full back who pounced on a fumbled catch in the Reading back field, kicked ahead then picked up one handed and just made the line for a well scored try. The conversion failed which left Reading 9-17 behind.
Reading’s best moves came in the last five minutes when they desperately strove for a win.
Good phase play put them in a series of good positions on the Witney line, but it wasn’t until the last minute that after strong work by Wills, the ball was moved to Cunningham who forced his way over for an unconverted try.
That proved to be the last play of the game so Witney ran out winners by 14-17.
This was a disappointing result for Reading who once again had their chances to win but were let down by their inability to take advantage of their periods of pressure.
Their best performances came from the front row of Pallett, King and Nicol who excelled in the tight whilst in the backs David did well in attack .
Reading now have a break over Christmas and return on Saturday, January 6 with a home game against Tottonians.
Penalties: David (2) Sharp T
Reading RFC: Alex Murray-Smith; Jos Clarke, Archie Wright, Tom David, Jason Carr; Tom Sharp, Hayden Wheeler; Josh Pallett, Steve King, Josh Nicol(capt.); Ryan Smith, Harvey Rice; Will Proctor-Searle, Alex Rowe, Rob Cunningham
Replacements: Alfie Fryer, Ben Wills, John Sharp
By Peter Chidgey