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RUGBY UNION: Big guns hailed in team of season
CHINNOR and Henley, who will face each other next season, make up two-thirds of my Oxford Mail team for the 2011-12 campaign.
Witney have two representatives after another impressive effort in South West 1 East, while Grove, Harwell and Oxford Harlequins provide one player apiece.
All players were judged against the level they compete at, so this is a ‘pound-for-pound’ line-up rather than a potential Oxfordshire side.
Here is why they made it.
BACK THREE: Henley captain Tom Allen was consistenly dangerous, not just at full back, and was again their top try scorer with 14.
Prolific wing Joe Pigott crossed the whitewash 30 times in Harwell’s remarkable 100 per cent league season.
Guy Nicholl brought his flanker skills, determination and pace to become 25-try joint leading scorer at Grove.
CENTRES: Matt Goode and Sam Stoop made Chinnor tick.
Both scored plenty of tries, but it was their creativity, reading of the game and strength, particularly in Goode’s case, that set up so many of Chinnor’s attacks.
HALF BACKS: Henley’s James Comben edges out Chinnor’s James Cathcart for the No 10 shirt after a season of incisive running, assured kicking and 283 points.
Scrum half Gareth Campbell was voted Witney players’ player-of-the-year and it was not hard to see why. Lively, committed and decisive, his high levels rarely dropped.
FRONT ROW: This selection went down to the wire, but Chinnor’s play-off victory proved decisive for all three.
Loose-head Joe Winpenny maintained great consistency at scrum time and led his side to a deserved promotion.
Simon Tattersall became Chinnor’s first-choice No 2 after avoiding the injuries that interrupted him in past years, while tight-head Joe Pickett’s all-round game stood out.
SECOND ROW: Richard Haire made a big impact during his first full season at Witney, not least with his ball-carrying abilities.
The experienced James Winterbottom returned to Henley where his line-out skills and reliability were crucial.
BACK ROW: Ryan Newman had a superb season after moving from Oxford Harlequins. Although he played more at openside, Newman’s qualities meant he could not be left out.
Having played for Tonga in the 2011 World Cup, Oxford Harlequins flanker Sione Vaiom’ounga shone with his hard tackling and bruising running. If one player kept Quins up, it was Vaiom’ounga.
Liam Gilbert has excelled in his second spell at Chinnor. His 22 tries, countless carries, vision and even the odd kick made him a key player.