Try-scorer Leidecker leads PJF back into promotion reckoning

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PurleyJohn Fisher, with two tries from centre Dan Leidecker, earned the right to fight for promotion from London 3SW after beating league leaders Winchester 21-16 last Saturday.

On a break: Old Mid-Whitgiftians' Rob Farmer makes a typical break through the opposition defence

On a break: Old Mid-Whitgiftians’ try-scorer Rob Farmer makes his break through the opposition defence. Photo: Peter Filewood

Winchester arrived at the Pightle protecting a 14-game unbeaten run and with the psychological advantage of having defeated PJF 24-0 earlier in the season.

But PJF also had a record to look after, a 100 per cent home win record in the league.

The contest lived up to expectations, enthralling the crowd. It was PJF that got into their stride quickest, with captain Leidecker scoring the opening try, converted by fly half Tom O’Toole.

The home side followed this up when Tom Casey made the most of an interception leaving him an unchallenged run in under the posts, O’Toole adding the extras again.

Stout defence from Purley-John Fisher restricted Winchester to just a couple of penalties from their incursions into the home side’s half.

PJF’s response was another Leidecker try, as he taking a flat pass across the backline and scything through the Winchester line. O’Toole’s kick made it 21-6.

The rearguard action for the rest of the match maintained the lead despite intense Winchester pressure, though the league leaders did manage to win a losing bonus point with a try in the final moments to put them within seven points of PJF.

Tough tackle: PJF fly-half Tom O'Toole, scorer of six points, is caught by Winchester forwards as he tries to launch another attack at the Pigthle on Saturday

Tough tackle: PJF fly-half Tom O’Toole, scorer of six points, is caught by Winchester forwards as he tries to launch another attack at the Pigthle on Saturday

This result maintains PJF’s bid for a play-off place as they retain third spot, by five points, with a game in hand on second-placed Weybridge Vandals, with six fixtures remaining (four at home), against sides below them in the league.

In the same division, Old Mid-Whitgiftians also enjoyed a good home win, beating Eastleigh 14-10.

Despite intense pressure, with the visitors’ forwards dominating in the set-piece, Midwives seized the initiative when centre Rob Farmer, in a flash of brilliance, intercepted a pass and ran from his own 10-metre line, keeping his feet well to avoid some last-ditch tap-tackling. Dan Crouch converted to give Mids an unexpected 7-3 half-time lead.

Eastleigh missed a couple of penalty kicks early in the second half. When the visitors then had an opportunity to pin Mids in the corner with the next penalty, they missed touch and Midwives’ prop Nathan Bacon fielded the ball and went on a charging run to raise the siege.

Eastleigh continued to press but could not find a way through the excellent home defence until their play-making centre put up a huge kick to the corner which was perfectly placed for the winger to come in and score. Converted, things were not looking good for the home side at 10-7 down with 25 minutes to play.

But a chance to charge up field gave scrum-half Jake Bacon the chance to kick ahead. The ball was spilled into the arms of winger Gareth Pritchard and he ran straight for the try. Crouch added the extras and Mids managed to close out the game, despite being reduced to 14 men after centre Andy Edwards was carded.

Warlingham, too, were back to winning ways in London 2SE, thrashing bottom-of-the-table Thanet Wanderers with an eight-try drubbing at Hamsey Green, 55-8.

Jon Osborne signaled the Warlingham intent with a spirited drive at the visitors defence. Thanet infringed allowing centre Mark Kozminski to chip over the penalty.

Thanet pressed and secured a penalty of their own to level the scores but this was to be their last score on the first half. Warlingham, with their set piece dominant, squeezed the resistance out of the Thanet pack. The Warlingham back line swung into action and prop Ant Abou-Zeid passed on to scrum half Steven Murtagh who gave Osborne a whisper of a chance.

Osborne weaved his magic and outstripped the defence for the first try converted by Kozminski. Lock Neil Robson showed intelligent line of running to split the visitors’ defence for the second and Warlingham’s third try came from a speculative kick ahead by fly half Oli Doe which winger Alex Skinner claimed.

Sustained pressure on the Thanet try line saw Murtagh dart forward but provide a perfect
unload to Abou- Zeid who smashed over the line for the bonus point fourth try.

After the break, prop Simon Townsend and new signing Finnish International No 8 Mikael Ahola came on to rejuvenate the Warlingham pack. Ahola immediately made an impact and when Osborne picked up a stray kick he shimmied through the opposition and, unselfishly
passed on to Kozminski who took both the fifth try and the conversion.

When Warlingham pressed again, prop Kieran Scutt – never known for his turn of pace – was lurking on the wing to shrug off tacklers for another try. Ahola came forward with a driving run and quick ball gave Doe half an opening. He slipped though for try number seven.

Kozminski converted to bring his personal tally to 20 points. Osborne added a late eighth try.

“We focused well and to score eight tries is commendable,” Ben Stobart, Warlingham’s new head coach, said. “However, we know there’s much to be done on the training pitch to develop our game further.”

It is a busy Saturday at Hamsey Green this Saturday, with Hillcrest Netball Club having a full programme of games, the local lacrosse club playing a fixture, and in addition to the first XV’s tough home league match against promotion-chasing Crowborough (2.30pm kick off), the club hosts its traditional fixture with French visitors Stade Francais, prior to retiring to the bar to watch on the big screens as Chris Robshaw leads England in the Six Nations international against France.

Down in the county leagues, in Surrey 1, Old Walcountians beat Old Tiffinians 23-19, Old Whitgiftians won by a single point, 34-33, in a thriller against Old Freemans, and the doomed season for Croydon saw them lose 134-10 at home against Farnham.

In Surrey 2, Streatham-Croydon‘s fluctuating fortunes saw them suffer a narrow defeat,  15-13 at Frant Road against Earlsfield-based club Battersea Ironsides.

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