Match Report by Richard Ashton
Photos courtesy of Paul Clark S2S Photography
Henry Bird’s try in the final minute of the game capped a stunning turnaround for the Old Bath Road club, who trailed 14-3 at the interval before coming back to secure a fourth straight win to lift them to second in the table.
Coming up against a side chock full of players with international, Premiership and Championship experience, Rams hauled themselves off the canvas courtesy of Stapley’s 75th-minute try and Bird’s last-gasp intervention.
And Stapley revealed: “We realised at half-time that we were flat and playing at 60 per cent, we were giving them too much respect.
“In the second half we went at them with a bit of determination and a bit of grit,
“We want to do this for each other, we were over the moon about winning.”
He continued: “It’s great to be involved in a game like that and the enjoyment it gives us. The big thing was maybe last year or two years ago, we may not have pulled together and we might have slipped up, but today when we were slipping up, we never panicked, we were always together. It shows what we’ve built on in the last two years.”
The afternoon had started in attritional fashion during a scoreless opening 20 minutes which saw Chinnor captain and ex Worcester Warrior Carl Kirwan sin-binned, only for the visitors to defy their numerical disadvantage when a slick passing move was rounded off by Jason Worrall in the right-hand corner. Lawrence May landed a fine conversion to put the Oxfordshire side 7-0 up.
An Alex Seers penalty reduced the deficit, but Chinnor led 14-3 at the break courtesy of a converted
Chris Elder try.
Rams started the second half brilliantly and moved 15-14 ahead thanks to Bird’s converted score and a Conor Corrigan effort on the left wing after he collected Seers’ deft chip.
The visitors replied on the hour mark as Elder cut a superb line to cross, May adding the extras to make it 21-15.
However, Rams refused to buckle, and with Shek Sherriff and Cameron Gray yellow carded for the away side, home skipper Stapley crossed in the 75th minute to give his side hope.
And they made the most of it, Bird going over in front of the clubhouse before Seers’ conversion proved the last action of a memorable game.
With a crowd of 621 in attendance – which felt like double with the roar as Bird crossed at the death - Rams head coach Seb Reynolds was coy when asked whether it was the club’s greatest ever victory.
He commented: “I’m not sure about that, there were a lot of special moments last season. To renew the rivalry with Chinnor, like the two local derbies with Henley last year, they pull a really big and energetic crowd and it was great to have that back. I think it really helped the players.
“The players can be incredibly proud of themselves. We looked at their back row yesterday and somebody said they’ve got an ex-Premiership player, an ex-Championship player and another ex-Premiership player, and we’ve got Robbie Stapley, Tom Vooght and Jamie Guttridge from Reading and the Berkshire area, but they were just fantastic.
“They’re a brilliant back row, as hard as nails. They were colossal in taking on a quality side and putting us on the front foot.”
He continued: “Chinnor are a very strong side and they had patches in the game where we were under pressure, but the guys did a great job to come back and seal the victory.
“The players fight for each other. It showed at half-time – for the first time this year we were losing a match, but the players were very calm. I don’t need to say much, they sort it out for themselves. When you know your mate is next to you, there’s a look, a trust, and when you’ve done it for a period of time, it brings out performances like that.”
Reynolds admitted Rams’ start to the season had been beyond their expectations, and sets up a top-of-the-table clash at Richmond next Saturday.
He said: “What a moment for the club. A couple of years ago it was inconceivable to have a game against Richmond at the Athletic Ground, but we’ll go there full of confidence and energy and see how we go. They’re a great side and have had a really good start to the season, but we’ll enjoy the trip.
“Like last year, you look at how you can take things to the next level. Ultimately, you have a group of friends who want to keep pushing themselves and each other, and that’s resulted in four wins. I don’t know what the next month is going to bring, but we’ll enjoy it.”
Looking ahead, Stapley concluded: “We treasure each moment as it comes. Each week is a different challenge and we’ll keep trying to do what we do.”
Rams 27 Chinnor 21
Tries: Bird 44, 79, Corrigan 52, R Stapley 75
Conversions: Seers 45, 80
Penalties: Seers 26
Tries: Worrall 22, Elder 34, 60
Conversions: May 23, 35, 61
Yellow Cards: Kirwan 13, Sherriff 69, Gray 75
Half Time: 3-14
Star man: Tom Vooght (Rams)
Referee: Dr Jonathan Cook
Rams: Bird, Rossiter (Denham 70), Jones, Humberstone, Corrigan, Seers, Cole (Moates 47);
Steadman, Henderson (Moffitt 61), Baker (McDonnell-Roberts 61), Taylor, C Stapley (Thomson 35),
Guttridge, Vooght, R Stapley
Chinnor: Harries, Goss (Moore-Aiono 13-23, Gray 70), Worrall, Elder, Yawayawa, May, Ashby; Fidler
George (Jeannot 53), McNulty (Selway 53), Thomas, Gray (Sherriff 55), Treviranus (Moore-Aiono 55),