Marlow show they can compete with the best in season of transition

It’s been a season of transition for Marlow RFC but, after a Christmas and New Year period disrupted by COVID and postponements, they’re showing form which suggests they can chase down the leading sides in the Southern Counties North.

The pandemic has brought plenty of change to Riverwoods, with many of the old guard stepping side to allow a younger generation to come through.

The core of the club’s second team has now become the core of the first team, but those players are learning quickly, and Saturday’s convincing 18-12 win over High Wycombe – a more commanding display than the scoreline suggests – has lifted them to within six points of third placed Aylesbury.

Saturday’s match was a revenge mission for the hosts, who had lost in controversial circumstances at Wycombe earlier in the season. Clearly still aggrieved at that result and how it transpired, they took the game to Wycombe from the first whistle, dominating at ‘the lineout, scrum, and breakdown’.

They’ve now won seven of their opening 11 matches ahead of another intriguing clash at second placed Stow-on-the-Wold on Saturday. Stow have won nine of their 11 matches this season and have slipped up just twice, but one of those defeats came at the hands of Marlow at Riverwoods.

Harvey Hendry scored their first try on Saturday, plucking a high ball out of the sky before tearing around his full-back to score. Miles Noble got their second, after good interplay with captain Hugo Jafari and a late try from Wycombe gave the scoreline a slightly distorted picture.

“It’s been a disjointed period for us with the Reading game being cancelled before Christmas even though we were good to play,” said Greenslade-Jones.

“Since then, we’ve also had numerous cases of COVID and there’s been a two-week circuit breaker. I would say 50 per cent of the squad has now had COVID, but we returned to training on January 4 and prepared well for Saturday’s game.

“It was a bit of a revenge local derby. We felt aggrieved having played them earlier in the season. We took quite a few injuries, and some ambulances were called that day. The game was delayed and then moved to another pitch when we were in the ascendancy.

“The half-hour break allowed some of their older boys to get back on the field, when they were done. It enabled them to catch their breath and they ultimately turned us over. So we were all guns blazing for Saturday’s game and wanted to put them to the sword.

“The conditions were testing and I don’t think the scoreline reflected the game at all. They scored in the last minute to make it look at lot tighter, but we had the ball for 80 per cent of the game and dominated in all areas, at the lineout, the scrum, the breakdown, so we were more than happy with our performance.”

He added: “It’s been a good season considering the circumstances. We’re in a transition period and our squad is predominantly made up of under 25-year-olds. The pandemic saw a lot of the old guard move jobs or out of the area or retire from playing and we’ve had to bring some youngsters through.

“The core of the second team has now become the core of our first team.

“The transition has gone very well all things considered and we’ve had good numbers at training. There is competition for places and the skill level has developed quite considerably.”

Marlow will now look to build on Saturday’s win when they visit Stow this weekend, and Greenslade-Jones is hoping they’ll continue to hold the Indian sign over their opponents.

“It will be interesting,” he said.

“We beat them at home at the beginning of the season but they’re flying high now. Every time I’ve played them in the last few seasons we’ve managed to come out on top.

“They play a good brand of rugby and have been through a transition period like us. I’m not sure if the weather will allow them to play their game on Saturday but we’re forward to going down there and playing some good rugby and getting some camaraderie going on the way back.”

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