RUGBY ROUND-UP: Purley John Fisher’s slim hopes of promotion from London 3SW were dealt possibly a fatal blow at Lime Meadow Avenue last Saturday when they lost a well-contested derby to Old Mid-Whitgiftians 29-27.
PJF took the lead after three minutes when fly-half Jamie Morris kicked a penalty, a score he doubled shortly after. Midwives came back at a furious pace but suffered a number of handling errors which denied them a breakthrough.
On 28 minutes things changed, however, with Mids pressing in the Fisher 22 with focus and patience. MidWives’ fly-half Matt Shields fielded a kick ahead and passed to full back Tom Layton who took the ball at pace, made a lovely break through the middle and set up the ruck on the 22. Scrum half Matt Hoyles released Mark Macaskill, playing in the centre and he drew the cover before sending winger Ben Perrett clear in the corner. Shields kicked an excellent conversion from far out to give Mids the lead at 7-6 at the break.
Six minutes into the second half, PJF prop James Quigley got the touchdown off a rolling maul from the line-out, a favoured tactic of his club this season. Morris kicked the extras, but PJF was unable to extend their advantage before Shields nailed a penalty to keep the hosts in touch.
Mids now dominated the game as it was clear that, with more recent match practice, they had the edge in fitness, and they registered three tries in a sublime seven-minute spell.
The first came when the ball was fed left by Hoyles to Shields who unloaded to centre Andy Dean running a devastating line at speed and he in turn found Macaskill inside him to take the pass and fly in under the posts. Hoyles converted and repeated the addition two minutes later after No8 Joe Marchant strode in following some lightning interplay.
From 13-10 down, MidWives had gone to 24-13 up, leaving PJF shell-shocked. With barely 10 minutes of the game remaining, flanker Joe Baulf picked up a loose ball and outpaced the defence for another home try and a 16-point lead.
To Fisher’s credit they roused themselves and after Mids had a player carded, the visitors turned the screw on the home line and were awarded a penalty try. When MidWives failed to find touch with a crucial kick, Fisher came back at them again, scoring through winger Kariym Irving. Morris converted both tries to put his side within two points.
But the clock was against them, and it seems that PJF may now run out of time in the season, too, for their promotion prospects: with two matches remaining, they trail second-place by nine points, thanks in part to Weybridge Vandals enjoying a bizarrely comfortable 40-0 win over Winchester, who have already won the division title.
Purley John Fisher can still pip Vandals to the runners-up promotion spot, but they have to win their two remaining games with bonus points and hope Vandals slip to a heavy defeat at relegation-threatened Old Wellingtonians this Saturday.
Warlingham, in the tier of London rugby where PJF would like to be, London 2SE, produced a desultory performance for their final home fixture of the season, losing to lowly Sevenoaks 56-36 at Hamsey Green.
It could, and ought, to have been so very different. Warlingham bullied Sevenoaks in the scrums to such an extent that the visitors were forced to sub one of their props within 20 minutes, and Warlingham might had been 13 points up within 10 minutes had Mark Kozminski not, unusually, missed two very kickable penalties, and had the pack not been a fraction over-keen to engage in a set scrum when a push-over try looked at their mercy.
In fact, it was Sevenoaks who opened the scoring, an intercepted pass seeing their wing to run in under the posts unopposed.
Warlingham got straight back into the game when the referee awarded an early penalty try from the next scrum five metres out and Kozminski found his kicking boots to level the scores. With Asa Wright’s kicks gaining territory, Warlingham soon returned to the opposition 22 with a scrum from where No8 Mike Fair nabbed the try.
Although Oaks were not having it their way at scrum time, they posed a constant threat out wide it was clear to see that the very quick full back much preferred running with the ball than kicking it. Every time Warlingham kicked the ball down his throat, he counterattacked, and it was not long before Oaks’ other wing tied things up, as Warlingham offered a tackle-free zone.
Warlingham props Kieron Scutt and Ant Abou-Zeid were really enjoying themselves in the set piece and achieved a second penalty try before the break.
But into the second half, the more Sevenoaks ran the ball, the more they found large open spaces in the fragile Warlingham defence. Two tries early in the second period put the visitors ahead, and the home side never managed to get back on terms.
Mark Kozminski managed to run in a try which he converted, but that was a mere interruption in Sevenoaks’ try-scoring glut. Forward Luke Delderfield got a consolation score late in the game, but even that was trumped as Sevenoaks ran in their eighth try of the afternoon.
Warlingham have one final game left of the season, at promotion-seeking Charlton Park on Saturday, when they must hope that their defenders actually turn up this time.
After some bad weather and a long Easter break, as the league action resumed there were some other surprise results in Surrey 1, where Croydon got their just their second win of the season, winning their derby at Old Whitgiftians 25-16. Whits ought to hang on to third place in the table, however.
Old Walcountians lost at home 17-33 against table-toppers Farnham.
And in Surrey 2, Streatham-Croydon had the weekend off, but with all other trams completing their completed, they finished fifth in the table, well down on what had looked possible as recently as Christmas.
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