READING RFC’s first-ever visit to Thatcham’s Henwick Fields ended with a 31-16 Southern Counties North victory for the home side.

Solid in the scrums and line-outs, with a class No. 8 in Mark Smith and a lively pair of half backs, Thatcham took command early, had the try bonus-point wrapped by the 28th minute and scored five tries in all.

Reading’s reply was tries from wing Ben Mitchell and No. 8 Grant Spears, while scrum half Nick Portch added two penalties.

Coach-in-charge for Thatcham was John Dixon who, 28 years ago, made his debut at scrum half for Reading. “It was a long away trip to Devon and the two scrum halves ahead of me were not available, so I was roped in.”

Dixon went on to play a leading role in Reading’s success during the 90s, becoming club captain, before moving to Thatcham in his later playing days.

With his son in the Thatcham team which he coaches, he has played his part in their rise in recent seasons.

Thatcham are now clearly one of the best teams in this division, although the feeling is they are not ready for promotion yet.

Nevertheless, the ambition is there and, as such, they mirror the kind of ambitions Reading coach Ben Wills has over the next few years for his team.

Thatcham’s early ascendancy brought two tries for wing Liam Rowland and a Danny Shaunessy penalty.

Portch replied with two penalties, but another Thatcham try, this time from scrum half Shaunessy, gave the home side an 18-6 lead within the half hour.

Reading needed a response and it came from Mitchell, who chased a well- placed kick from new fly half Lloyd Thomas to hack the ball on and win the race for the touchdown.

This brought Reading to within one score but, just before half time, Smith touched down for the home side’s bonus-point try.

The second half started badly for Reading as they were pushed off their own ball in a five-metre scrum. The scrum was re-set, Thatcham put the ball in and the result was a pushover try.

There was one more try to come as playing conditions worsened and this came from Spears, who finished off a well-constructed move with a powerful drive over the line.

Three minutes later, Shaunnessy kicked a penalty. With a quarter of the game still to go this ended the scoring.

Reading have a bye week before hosting Wallingford on Saturday, February 17.

  • BERKSHIRE Shire Hall were beaten 17-5 at home by Harwell in the BB&O Championship.

They next travel to second-placed Oxford on February 17.