Chris Wilson At King George V Playing Fields
ALL GOLDS scrum half Callum Merrett scored a hat-trick of tries and eight goals from eight attempts in a 28-point haul as he steered his side to a well-deserved opening day win in the West of England League.
The game marked the first outing for the merged All Golds-Gloucestershire Warriors club and turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining encounter. Cheltenham Phoenix were a match for the All Golds throughout except in one department, which was pace.
Four of the All Golds’ eight tries came from deep inside their own half including a sensational effort that began with a Jack Uren offload in his own in-goal and ended with Michael Holden diving under the posts at the other end of the field.
That came after Phoenix had taken an early lead through Tom Jones who went over from close range in the fifth minute, Sam Hughes adding the goal.
Merrett converted Holden’s effort four minutes later to level matters but it was 15 minutes before the next score arrived, Merrett’s show-and-go gave him enough space to break the defensive line and he was able to round the fullback to score under the posts and give the All Golds a 12-6 lead with the kick.
Hughes went over on the last tackle for the home side to cut the lead to 12-10 but Merrett snaffled an interception try to ease the All Golds out by a further six points.
However, the home side put themselves back in the game on the stroke of half time when Jack Kerr did well to touch down in the corner, again on a last tackle play.
Crucially, Hughes missed both conversion attempts and the sides turned round with the All Golds leading 18-14.
Cheltenham had the better of the first period in terms of possession and field position but the All Golds were clinical in taking their chances. The home side would have been expecting to make that count in the second period but made the worst possible start.
Two tries in the opening five minutes of the second period extended the All Golds lead to 16 points and looked to have sealed the game but the Phoenix battled right to the end though the All Golds always had too much of a lead to be caught.
On the second play of the half, Jack Uren broke through three tackles and sped away to the line to score. Then Ash Lewis raced 75 metres after collecting a poorly-directed Hughes kick and with Merrett tagging on the goals, the lead was now 30-14.
However, Paul Bartlett strolled through some soft defence to the posts for the home side to cut the lead, but only temporarily as Dieter Thomas scored from dummy half right on the Cheltenham line.
The tit-for tat scoring continued around the hour mark as Chris True’s determination saw him drive over the line for the Phoenix but they were again undone by the pace of the All Golds’ outside backs.
Four minutes later, Aedan Coleman took the ball off the back of a scrum 30 metres from his own line and ran round the defensive line and away to the other end of the field for the All Golds’ seventh try of the game.
After True was sin-binned for interference at the play-the-ball following some indisciplined play from both sides, Merrett completed his hat-trick with a weaving run through the defence, capping it off with a fine goal from the touchline.
Both sides tired in the final stages of a game played at a high pace throughout and play became scrappy and there was no further scoring.
All Golds coach Marcus Brown was delighted with the win though his side will be working on their defence before the visit of Forest Bulldogs to St Peter’s next Saturday.
PHOENIX: Dylan Thomas; Ryan Cunningham, Jake Thompson, Paul Bartlett (Capt), Scott Denmer; Doug Simpson, Sam Hughes; Chris True, Ryan White, Ben Lafford Taylor; Max Ballheimer, Alex Ratcliffe; Hugh Howes; INTERCHANGE: Joe Hart, Ollie Wilton, Tom Jones, Rob White, Jack Kerr.
Tries; Tom Jones (4), Sam Hughes (28), Jack Kerr (37), Paul Bartlett (49), Chris True (57)
Goals; Sam Hughes 3 from 5
ALL GOLDS: Jack Uren; Michael Holden, Aedan Coleman, Joe Uren, Tom Gaffney; Kieran Webb, Callum Merrett; Mitchell Dent, Dieter Thomas, Josh Foster; Jared du Plessis, Ryan Tanner; Ash Lewis (Capt); INTERCHANGE: Dean Cooper, Aseri Lewasaru, Jake McMahon, Josh Llewelyn, Ben Roche, Alasdair Anderson, Marcus Brown.
Tries; Michael Holden (8), Callum Merrett (24, 31, 70), Jack Uren (41), Ash Lewis (45), Dieter Thomas (52), Aedan Coleman (61)
Goals: Callum Merrett 8 from 8
Scoring sequence: 6-0, 6-6, 6-12, 10-12, 10-18, 14-18, (HT), 14-24, 14-30, 20-30, 20-36, 26-36, 26-42, 26-48, (FT)
Referee: Stuart Orton