Dodwell rises to occasion for Warl to rediscover winning ways

Rising above the rest: Warlingham's Ollie Dodwell was outstanding in all aspects of yesterday's match against Crowborough

Rising above the rest: Warlingham‘s Ollie Dodwell was outstanding in all aspects of yesterday’s match against Crowborough

RUGBY ROUND-UP: Had the local clubs’ half-term report come a week earlier, it could have made for extremely bleak reading. Streatham-Croydon, Old Walcountians and Purley-John Fisher are all teetering on the brink of the relegation zones of their respective divisions, and no local teams are challenging for divisional titles this term.

Perhaps worst of all was the area’s leading club, Warlingham, having been walloped 79-5 at Charlton Park leaving them too close to the drop zone of London and South-east Division 2SE for comfort.

So while Warlingham’s 31-14 victory at Hamsey Green yesterday might not be quite up there with Lazarus’s come back, it certainly represented a spirited riposte after the previous week’s drubbing, with the  Gatlands and Woodwards lining the touchline in broad agreement that they had just seen Warlingham’s best performance of the season by far.

From the first, the side had a competency about its slick passing and quick distribution, the half-back combination of Ollie Doe and fit-again James Agate making good decisions and distributing the ball well for the likes of centre Brad Saffery and flank forward Zack King to hit the gain line at pace and run smart lines with crash balls that gained their side acres of ground.

But above all else, in the scrums, at the line-out, seemingly at every ruck and devastating in the loose, Warlingham’s No8 Ollie Dodwell was truly outstanding.

Barely in his 20s, Dodwell is a product of Warlingham’s thriving youth programme. He came into Saturday’s match off the back of a week of practical university exams at St Mary’s, Twickenham, where he is studying sports rehabilitation. After the battering Dodwell put his body through in the cause yesterday, he will need to make good use of his new-found knowledge over the next few days.

In common with all the area’s local amateur players, Dodwell does at least have a four-week respite before the senior league competition resumes, and his team’s performance yesterday has earned Warlingham some breathing space from any relegation worries for the remainder of the season: 10th in the table and six points clear of the next side after 12 matches played, the Hamsey Green club is now probably just one good win from absolute safety.

Against Crowborough, and for once with a near-full-strength squad on the field, it was hard to see what the problem was. Playing with the strong, blustery wind at their backs, Warlingham finished the first half 21-0 up, the visitors lucky to get the nil.

Warlingham were too strong for the visitors, wings Jon Osborne and Alex Skinner both enjoying some space for speedy incursions down the flanks, space earned by their forwards hard work down the middle. Strong tackling from the likes of flanker Neil Robson and prop Alex Nunn ensured a watertight defence.

Despite playing into the wind in the second half, it was Warlingham who were first to score, securing the bonus point; that Crowborough managed to get a second score with the last move of the game probably had more to do with none of the tiring defenders being able to see in the gathering gloom of the December evening.

In London 3SW and up the Limpsfield Road, at Old Mid-Whitgiftians, it is a team mate of Dodwell’s from the Warlingham age group sides, Rob Farmer, who is earning the plaudits, MidWives winning 26-20 at Cranleigh a week ago and then yesterday taking the local bragging rights, beating Purley-John Fisher 31-16.

The two local sides go into the Christmas break in eighth and ninth place in the division, each with four wins from 12 games, but MidWives holding a four-point advantage thanks to the bonus point system.

In Surrey 1, Old Whitgiftians rounded off their year’s fixtures with a 16-6 win at Old Paulines. Yet despite six wins in their nine league games this season, they remain off the pace in the race for a promotion place to the regional divisions, a dearth of bonus points seeing them languishing below sides with only half as many victories this term.

Meanwhile, Old Walcountians’ flirtation with relegation was not helped by a 26-17 defeat at Old Freemans. Their new year resolution will involve securing a win or three to pull away from the bottom two side.

Down in Surrey 2, Croydon finished their 2013 programme with a 16-7 win over Old Emanuel, but Streatham-Croydon’s slump in fortunes continued, losing 15-42 at Frant Road to Economicals in their last game of the year. Croydon go into 2014 in sixth place in their table, but Streatham-Croydon have some work to do to avoid relegation, with Old Ruts and Bec Old Boys both within one result of overtaking them.

Two of the local schools’ first XVs remain in the NatWest Cup going into 2014, Whitgift due to face Hampton in the sixth round on January 15, while Trinity managed to win 24-27 at Harrow with this nervelessly taken last-kick penalty.

Trinity’s reward? A trip up to Dulwich College, the winners at Twickenham for the last two seasons…

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