RUGBY ROUND-UP: We did say it would be close.
By the final whistle at Plough Lane last Saturday, Whitgift School‘s first XV had hung on to a 25-24 victory over John Fisher, but only just, as Lewis Dennelly, the Fisher scrum-half, was just inches short of claiming the latest of winning tries.
“It was a really, really tight game, the nerves were going, but we fought through,” Ben Ledger, the Whitgift captain, said.
Whitgift had raced into a convincing lead, scoring two tries without reply in the opening minutes, before having to defend against repeated assaults on their try-line through the whole of the second 35 minutes.
“In the second half we took the pressure off them, we stopped playing to our simple game plan and let them back into it with a few mistakes and some poor decision-making,” Ledger said. “But we fought hard at the end.”
Despite the disappointment of defeat, Seaghan Davey, Fisher’s captain, took heart from the way his young side had battled back. “I’ve got to say though, that second half, I’ve never seen anything like it.
“We’ve had a couple of turnarounds this season. We went down to Trinity, we went down to RGS, and won those games, so we had that experience to draw on. There’s real passion in this team, and we looked at each other at half time and said there’s no reason this can’t be our day.
“It was gutting to lose like that, but I think we gave a great account of ourselves and we can walk off with our heads held high,” Davey said.
Davey certainly managed to get his side back together again quickly: by Wednesday, Fisher were back in steam-roller mode, winning 55-3 at Glyn School in the second round of the NatWest Cup, the national schools competition.
And what awaits them in the third round? An away trip to … Whitgift, probably to be played on Wednesday, November 13.
While the schoolboys were losing, their old boys’ side, Purley John Fisher were enjoying a convincing 31-18 win at London Exiles in their London 3SW clash.
The small pitch favoured the home side’s style as they looked to bash the ball up the middle, recycle quickly and hope PJF’s defence ran out of players. But the visitors’ defence was up to the task with Conrad McFarlane outstanding in the centre. At two penalties a piece PJF were recycling the ball quickly and varying their points of attack.
The first try came from a penalty. Johan Malcolm kicked into the Exiles’ 22. From the line out PJF set a driving maul over the line with Dan Crumplin touching down. Malcolm kicked the conversion.
Malcolm grabbed PJF’s second try in the second half with a piece of brilliance to split the defence. After they had conceded a second try, PJF roused themselves and drove deep into Exiles half forcing them to concede a penalty and Malcolm obliged by slotting the kick.
With 10 minutes remaining and the game not yet won, PJF started to exert their forward dominance winning another penalty in front of the posts. With PJF now two scores ahead they continued to press, with Rory Campbell on the PJF wing finally finding space to go over in the corner to seal the result.
In the same division, Old Mid-Whitgiftians went down to their fourth defeat in five, losing 22-31 at home to Eastleigh.
Further along the Limpsfield Road, playing in the division above, London 2SE, Warlingham showed what a tough season is ahead of them, too, the 8-20 final scoreline against high-flying Deal and Betteshanger hardly reflecting the dominance of the Kent side in the opening half.
Warlingham were not helped by the absence through a hamstring injury of their skipper and back-row driving force Zac King, and they were hit by a further set-back within the first five minutes when experienced fly-half James Agate suffered a broken hand in an early challenge.
Although Warlingham were first to score through a well-struck Joe McEvoy penalty, the rest of the first half belonged to the visitors, scoring two converted tries and two penalties, and dominating all the scrums.
Not until the final scrummage of the first half did Warlingham’s front five manage to exert some force on the opposition, a change in fortunes which turned the tide of the game for the second period.
But Deal were canny enough to slow play down and take plenty of time out of the game, and for all the Warlingham endeavour, they rarely managed to break the visitors’ defensive line.
The pressure finally told when replacement fly-half Fintan Morris, in his first full senior game, floated a pass out to winger Jack Green who completed the score in the left-hand corner. And with that, Deal pulled down the shutters, to frustrate and deny Warlingham for the rest of the match.
“We gave them too much respect in the first half and that proved to be our downfall,” Ben Stobart, the Warlingham coach, said. “The second half proved that we can compete with every club in this league but we have to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together for the full 80 minutes.”
Down in the county divisions, three of the local sides are struggling at the bottom of their leagues. But one team is a notable exception: Croydon – aka Purley Wanderers – who struggled so badly in Surrey 2 last season, but won 29-20 at Economicals last Saturday, for a second win from three games.
But Streatham-Croydon, promotion chasers 10 months ago, are rooted to the bottom of the table this term, after losing 17-22 against the Law Society at Frant Road.
In Surrey 1, Old Walcountians are still without a win this season after losing 39-3 to Old Tiffinians; Old Whitgiftians lost their game at Old Tonbridgians 28-13.
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Coming to Croydon
- The Firebird, family concert: Oct 20
- Lakes Playground group’s fundraising Zumba-ween: Oct 26
- PJ’s enterprising look at Black History Month: Oct 29
- Secret Love at the Ashcroft Theatre: Nov 14
- Future Tech City: Nov 30
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