A much strengthened Brackley squad delivered a greatly improved performance at Bedford Swifts despite losing 12-3 in Saturday’s Midlands Four East South fixture.
While a degree of unfamiliarity within their back division resulted in the visitors’ attacking play at times lacking coherence, the fact that four penalties from Swifts and one from Brackley were the sole source of points is a testament to the resolute defence of both teams.
Making a welcome return after missing the previous three matches through injury, winger Josh Green opened the scoring at the end of an evenly matched first quarter. That lead lasted just five minutes as Swifts drew level but for most of the second quarter Brackley looked the more likely to cross the whitewash.
At fullback, newcomer David Stubley impressed under the high ball and, with No 8 Mark Herlihy and second rower Jonny Morris leading the forward charge, Swifts were pegged inside their red zone as the interval approached.
But heading into stoppage-time, the home team broke out, threatening to score down the right only to spill the ball. But Swifts had put themselves within range of Brackley’s posts and when the visitors transgressed, they slotted a second penalty.
Hardly had the second period begun than Brackley were penalised again, this time watching the ball sail over the bar from near the halfway line.
Brackley should have taken heed of that kick. Eight minutes later they were pinged in the same area of the field and the result was another superb kick from the fly half, denying them a losing bonus point.
With play beginning to open up, Swifts tested Brackley on both flanks but were kept at bay by forceful covering tackles from Herlihy, flanker Will Cooper and centre Gareth Harvey.
In the final quarter winger Paul Brinklow darted through the first line of defenders on the halfway mark, cutting inside before being comprehensively tackled on Swifts’ 22.
With a minute to play, replacement centre was brought down by a tap-tackle just short of the line. Though regaining his feet, Brinklow was instantly submerged in a sea of blue and yellow jerseys. It just wasn’t Brackley’s day.