Winchester 36 – 8 Reading

Winchester produced a scintillating performance of expansive rugby to storm to a convincing six-try win over Reading on a bitingly-cold afternoon in Sonning, writes Ben Beavan.

With an emphasis on attack from both teams in the opening exchanges, Winchester landed the first blow with a moment of rugby magic. Wing Tom Forster, fielding a kick deep in his twenty-two surged up field by dint of several mesmerising dummies. His exquisite inside pass was gathered by Tom Fieldsend whose off load in the tackle sent Tommy Hare over in the corner. Reading reduced the lead to two points with Tom Sharpe slotting a penalty.

Scrum Half Connor Breen’s clever box kicks continued to pepper the opposition back field. Reading knocked-on, and from the subsequent scrum the Winchester pack drove the Reading eight over their try-line. Number eight Matt Golding pounced to score on his 150th first-team appearance with the conversion taking Winchester 12 - 3 ahead. The vociferous home support was in full voice and Reading came back strongly with fullback Alex Dorliac scoring wide-out. Reading sensed the chance of a come-back with the score 12 - 8, but Winchester finished the half strongly. When a hurried Reading clearance failed to find touch, wing Tom Banks was quickest to react and raced away to the line. Brought down short he had Hare in support to score his second try taking Winchester to a 17 - 8 half-time lead. 

Fly Half Fieldsend was a quick-witted handful throughout and found time and space to follow up his grubber kick behind a rushing Reading defence to gather and dot down before adding the extras from under the posts.

Winchester’s ball carriers continued to wreak thunderous havoc and, with the fit again flanker Jack Coles and back-row partner Paddy Dunne feasting on turnovers at the breakdown, Reading had no foothold in the game, trailing 24 - 8.

The Winchester pack were now dominant in most areas and a penalty put a Winchester line-out in the corner. Hooker Jim Wallis found his target and the drive was direct, clinical and effective, propelling prop Jim Beavan over to score.

In the gathering gloom yet another infringement and Winchester were again on the Reading five metre line. A text-book line-out from the training paddock. Throw, catch, peel and Jacob Culley-Wilson was over for Winchester’s sixth try. With the score 36 - 8 the referee blew the final whistle.