In a match that needed no hype, Wanderers met Bucks in a repeat of last years final.
In a high tempo start, Wanderers came out the blocks quickly, putting together phase after phase before a cheeky chip through enabled Jonathan Wong to slamdunk a score in the corner, Robbie MacGregor putting the conversion just wide.
Determined not to let Bucks settle, oppressive defence and controlled phase play with some powerful carries especially from the rampaging Sebastian Murphy led to Wanderers getting their 2nd try. After a series of pick and goes the backs went wide, Chris Harris breaking the line before offloading smartly to Robbie Ria to score in the corner, MacGregor adding the extras.
A few sloppy mistakes however let Bucks back into the game before half time. Two avoidable penalties in our 22 ended with Bucks tapping quickly and despite some good scramble defence from Wanderers, Bucks dived over to make it 12-5, with their kicker missing the extras.
Half time came, with both sides having a deserved break from both the speed of the game and the oppressive heat.
Wanderers again came out all guns blazing in the 2nd half, a dominant set piece both at scrum time and the lineout creating a platform for Tom Clarke to go over out wide after some powerful carries by David Gull, Murray Campbell and Matthew Humpries. Robbie adding the extras.
Bucks, needing to get a try to get back into the game, were continually frustrated in open play by both the intensity and linespeed of the Wanderers defence with Sebastian Murphy and Fathur putting in some great hits and even the prop David Gull getting a couple of key turnovers in defence.
However pressure told, and after Sebastian Murphy was given a yellow for foul play in the air in the lineout (largely caused by a certain unnamed prop forgetting to lift him…), Bucks responded by scoring their trademark rolling maul tries.
Firstly, after some great defence by Wanderers on their own line to both smash Bucks back and strip the ball from the attackers, the ref called play back for an apparent (and baffling) high tackle. After a kick to the corner, Buck’s went over from the drive. Bucks got a 2nd from a similar position, again going over from a rolling maul, with their kicker missing the extras even after getting a 2nd attempt.
However it was Wanderers, back up to their full compliment and refreshed by some key substitutions, that ended the game on top. Good running by debutant Reiner and old man Rhino were breaking the gainline, and with a scrum led by Randall, Gully and Humps which at one point pushed the Bucks scrum 20metres backwards setting a platform and gaining territory. From this Damien Ho went over for his 2nd in the corner, jogging round to place the ball by the posts after a trademark snipe at the ruck, leaving an easier conversion by MacGregor.
Overall a good first game of the season from the Wanderers, plenty to work on for 2018, and plenty of positives.