RUGBY ROUND-UP: There were differing fortunes on Saturday for the local sides at different ends of Croydon and different ends of the national rugby ladder.
At Frant Road, Thornton Heath, Streatham-Croydon strengthened their promotion push in lowly Surrey Division 2 with a 17-5 win over Bec Old Boys.
A few miles south at Hamsey Green, and four divisions above S&C in London and South East Div 2SE, Warlingham had good claim to being robbed of a deserved draw against their league leaders.
Even in victory, Streatham-Croydon left the game regretting their failure to secure a winning bonus point.
With lock forward Walter Pretorius scoring three typically robust tries, it might have helped if someone else, besides Aaron Brown who kicked one conversion, had pitched in.
The victory sees S&C move to within three points of the joint league leaders Chipstead and Battersea Ironsides, promising an intriguing second half of the season after Christmas.
It is nearly a decade since Warlingham battled their way out of the county leagues and into the tougher, regional divisions. Now, the leading local rugby club’s attitude towards further promotion, to take them to the brink of the national leagues, is ambivalent: the anticipated demands on the club’s finances becoming a hefty disincentive to progress.
So being seventh in London 2SE this morning, 11 points off league leaders Brighton has some consolation, though that’s not how their side felt after a dominating 20-minute spell hammering at the visitors’ defence at the end of an enthralling and closely contested game.
With Brighton just a converted try ahead, had Warlingham’s line-out and rolling maul managed to force a way through the stern Brighton defence, or had the referee opted to award a penalty try after whistling for a third infringement at the ruck by Brighton, then a draw would have been a fair result.
The referee had no hesitation in showing three yellow cards during the game, including one to Warlingham forward Luke Delderfield for having the temerity to tackle a Brighton player in the process of scoring a try. So the home side’s supporters were mystified that the referee was unable to see their skipper, flank forward Zack King, cross the line and ground the ball off one of the rucks when his side was camped inside the Brighton five-metre line in the dying minutes.
Warlingham had opened the scoring after 20 minutes from a line-out move, with player-coach Tom Street going over. Mark Kozminski, back from honeymoon, was unable to add the conversion.
Brighton responded with two quick tries, both converted, and their big ball carrying backs looking poised to run away with the game in the second half, especially with the hosts down to 14 men and the first score of the second period was achieved.
It was then that Warlingham battled back impressively, an opportunistic break from halfway by Ben Wimble seeing the centre race 50 yards and evade a couple of tackles before scoring the try converted by fly half Joe McEvoy.
Only some ferocious, last-ditch tackling by Brighton kept Warlingham out as they made desperate efforts to get another score, and the south coasters were rightly delighted to have held out at the final whistle.
A division below Warlingham, and some good results for Old Mid-Whitgiftians, who beat Old Blues 41-21, and Purley-John Fisher, who won 16-13 on the Isle of Wight at Sandown and Shanklin.
In Surrey 1, only Old Whitgiftians emerged victorious on Saturday, winning 27-20 at Wimbledon.
Walcountians lost 13-10 at Cranleigh and Croydon’s miserable season continued with a 15-20 defeat at home to Kingston. Both local clubs look doomed to relegation.
Next Saturday’s match of the week is surely the local derby in London SE 2SW at Parsons Pightle, where Purley-John Fisher host Midwives in what could prove to be a festive thriller. Neither club looks to have any real promotion chance this season, but both have now done enough not to be too worried about the threat of relegation back to Surrey divisions.
Warlingham travel to Sevenoaks for their last league game of 2012, while Streatham visit Old Rutlishians in Morden.
In Surrey 1, Croydon travel to Old Cranleighans, and Old Walcountians are at home at Clockhouse against Old Wimbledonians, while Old Whits have a tough home match against their league leaders, Farnham.
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