You can't coach the kind of character and commitment Maidenhead's players showed in the final 20 minutes of Saturday's 15-12 win over Dings Crusaders, coach Russell Bolton has said.
The players had been working hard on the defensive side of their game during the week, but, in the aftermath of David Perry's sad passing, they found an extra level to grind out a win and extend their unbeaten home run.
Maids have now gone 29 games unbeaten at Braywick, since Oxford Harlequins pocketed the points following a narrow 8-3 win in November 2015. It looked like Dings might end that winning streak, and Bolton said he'd made peace with the fact that they might, as they hammered the Maids' line in the final minutes.
with only 14 men on the field following
Will Macaulay's yellow card, they
held firm for a famous win that supporters
will surely speak about for years.
Tense, tight encounters such as this
have been a rarity at Braywick, but
Bolton said the score-line reflected
both teams' epic defence.
The final 20 minutes are likely to be seared into the memories of those who were there, and Bolton admitted the players were drained from their efforts after the final whistle.
"With the events of the week, everyone was up for the challenge," said Bolton.
"Playing the leaders Dings also added to the emotion of the occasion.
"They're a classy side, but the boys put in such an effort that they were quite quiet after the match. I think they were drained by the occasion."
He said: "In the first 15 minutes both teams were exchanging tries and you'd have thought it would be 50-50," he said.
"But then for the final 60 minutes it became quite tight. It's something we haven't seen much at Braywick, but it was interesting and intriguing to watch. Both teams tried to play good rugby, but that was matched by the defending and it became a real battle."
Sheer bloody-mindedness, and a refusal to let their proud home record go to the champions elect, saw them through, and Bolton hopes they can show the same defensive courage and discipline in the remainder of the season.
"Those last 20 minutes were all on the boys," added Bolton.
"What we saw from them on Saturday is something you can't coach. They just refused to budge, even when we went down to 14 men. It's not something you can do every week, but we'd like to perform like that on a more consistent basis.
Myke (Parrott) showed excellent leadership. Not all of the boys knew David (Perry) well, but he made them aware of what he'd done for the club, and inspired them to go out and put in a performance like that."
"We were protecting our home record, playing against the league leaders and the sad passing of David added fuel to our fire to put in a performance in his memory."