AFTER weeks of defeats and a season of disappointment, High Wycombe RFC gritted their teeth to ground out a pivotal win and begin the new year with new hope.
They won 14-13 against Witney, just their third league triumph all season, to climb off the foot of the South West 1 East table and bring third-from-bottom Newbury Blues into range.
Survival is still a long way off, but Wycombe have at last taken a forward step.
Club chairman Kelvin Hardy said: “It was a vitally important win. It can’t be understated, we had to do it, we had to win and we ground it out.”
They did it the hard way though. After building a 14-0 interval lead Wycombe put their fans through the mill in the second 40 minutes as the visitors chipped away at their lead constantly.
A try eight minutes from time almost wiped it out completely, but the conversion attempt went wide and Wycombe held on to win by a point.
Hardy said: “We were definitely nervous. We’ve lost a lot of games late on in games this season and in the last ten or 15 minutes we did look tired.
“There was that worry, but we ground it out.
“It wasn’t pretty and let’s be honest, they missed a lot of kicks that you would say were kickable.
“But then we crossed the line three times and knocked on or had the ball dislodged so we could easily have had another three tries.”
At this stage though and in this situation, Wycombe care less about the means than the end and Saturday’s victory could yet be all-important.
To achieve it, coach Dave Roberts called on the old guard to dig his team out of a new problem, with the returning George Dorling, Pete Dorling, Gavin Bunker, Digi Akinwale and Mark Sturgeon boosting the squad’s accumulated appearances from 609 to more than 1,300.
And that know-how paid rich dividends.
After spending the first 15 minutes inside their own half Wycombe finally mounted an attack and their heavy pack immediately began to establish dominance.
Twice they rumbled to within yards of the Witney line before their pressure finally told when Witney were penalised for collapsing the scrum.
Instead of taking three points though, Wycombe packed down again and their ambition was rewarded when the referee awarded them a penalty try after Witney transgressed again.
Dan Sumnal converted to make it 7-0, and minutes later the lead was doubled when full back Nick Robinson finished off a slalom through the visiting defence.
With Witney missing two kickable penalties, Wycombe reached the interval with a healthy lead and twice they thought they’d scored again after the turnaround as first Ian Isham and then Luke Harding dashed for the whitewash.
However, Witney had crossed themselves by then and after missing the conversion they cut the gap to 14-8 with a penalty after 50 minutes.
With Wycombe tiring, Witney crossed again after 72 minutes to cut the gap to one point, but the conversion went wide and Wycombe survived until the end.