Reading RFC opened their league season with an away defeat to Newbury in a side that featured five debutants.
A reorganisation of the leagues has moved Reading and Newbury into the London and South East Division where they now play teams from Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, as well as Jersey.
The Reading team with recent colts mixed in with some older players lacked the experience of a seasoned Newbury side. The Newbury number eight and half backs who had a big influence on the game had played together for a number of years and it showed in the speed with which they could launch their backline.
Reading by contrast had Matt Palphreyman and Hayden Wheeler at number eight and scrum half respectively making their debuts. Both had promising games but Newbury’s greater experience showed.
Reading started well with a series of attacks in the first ten minutes. In the end all they could show for it was a scrum penalty which Tom Sharpe missed.
Newbury relieved the Reading pressure and launched some attacks of their own. Reading held them out with some good scrambling defence but eventually Newbury drove a line out close to the line and although it seemed to have initially been held up a break away from the maul crossed the line for a try which was well converted from wide out by number ten Dan Thorne.
Newbury soon increased their lead when Reading were penalised in front of their posts and Thorne’s successful kick made their lead 10-0.
Newbury continued to put pressure on the Reading line and they soon scored another try after a superb long pass from Thorne found their winger who ran in for a try.
Reading fought back and almost scored from an attacking line out but knocked on with the line at their mercy. They continued to put together attacks but found it difficult to break the well organised Newbury defence.
Just before half time Newbury broke free and a series of penalties allowed them to set up a line out near the Reading line.
After some initial phases the ball was moved wide and a well-judged chip resulted in an unconverted try in the right corner to make their lead 20-0 at the break.
The second half was similar to the first with Reading putting pressure on but not having the penetration to get over the line whilst Newbury’s attacks were slicker and ultimately more productive.
Newbury scored a try early in the second half which, like their first score, was from a driving line out.
They added another with fifteen minutes to go from a good move in broken play with some clever inter-passing which outstripped the Reading defence.
Reading played well in the last ten minutes and finished the game on the attack but were unable to capitalise on some good positions.
Reading were strong in the scrums and the front row, in particular, Josh Pallett gave the Newbury scrum a lot of trouble. Matt Palfreyman at number eight had a good game on debut. He was strong in defence and was always looking for opportunities to attack.
Reading had some trouble with the new high tackle laws and gave away penalties that allowed Newbury to relieve pressure and set up good positions.
New Head Coach, Luke Harding was pleased that his team never gave up and were still attacking at the end.
Although disappointed with the score, he saw positives given the relative experience of Newbury and the inexperience of many of his players but also lots of areas to work on.
Reading play Jersey for the first time ever next Saturday in their first home game of the season and will be looking to get a first win.
Reading RFC: Alec Dorliac (capt); Vincent Mose, Archie Wright , Alex Murray-Smith, Shane Hancock; Tom Sharp, Hayden Wheeler; Josh Pallett, Alfie Fryer, Steve King; Rob Cunningham, Ryan Smith; Alex Lewis, Adam Wright,. Matthew Palphreyman.
Replacements: Harry Wilson, Max Pepper, Tom David
By Peter Chidgey