Trinity face trip to the champions to stay in national cup

RUGBY ROUND-UP: For the second successive year, Whitgift have been knocked out of the national schools’ rugby cup by Hampton School, losing 11-6 in a hard-fought contest in South Croydon yesterday afternoon.

Tackled: despite losing position here, Trinity School's first XV did enough at Harrow before Christmas to earn a NatWest Cup sixth-round tie at Dulwich College

Tackled: despite losing possession here, Trinity School’s first XV did enough at Harrow before Christmas to earn a NatWest Cup sixth-round tie at Dulwich College

Probably most galling of all, Whitgift had led the sixth-round match 6-0 at half-time, but were unable to withstand the second-half pressure from their Middlesex rivals.

The result means that the only Croydon school remaining in this season’s competition at under-18 level is Trinity, who having beaten Harrow with a successful penalty with the last kick of the game before Christmas, are now within reach of the last 16 – but face a match at Dulwich College, Twickenham final winners in 2012 and 2013, on January 29.

Conditions at Whitgift’s pitch alongside the Brighton Road yesterday were far from ideal, with the match played in constant drizzle and gusting wind prompting the home side to kick for territory through Jack Lloyd, George Jones and George Pearson.

Whitgift used their big, powerful runners such as Stan South and Henry Cheeseman, but the Hampton line did not break, and despite being camped in the opposition’s 22 for the first-half, their return was just two penalties.

Playing into the wind in the second half, and Whitgift were made to pay for their failure to make more of their earlier domination.

After 15 minutes of the second period, Hampton were level thanks to two Chatterton penalties, with prop Sam Curran making the only clear break of the match to set up the second penalty.

The pressure really told against the panicked Whitgift when Hampton flanker Paul Van Der Merwe crossed the line for the only, and decisive, try of the match. Whitgift threw everything at Hampton to try to recover the situation, but in the last play and within a metre of the Hampton line a penalty was conceded and the visitors were able to clear to touch to end the match.

For local clubs, waterlogged pitches saw a second week of postponements for some, though you might suspect that Warlingham might have preferred that their Hamsey Green groundsman might have called off their London 2SE fixture with Tunbridge Wells, who returned home with a bonus point win after their 33-16 victory.

The home club had probably expected a better performance, off the back of two recent victories as well as having managed to eke out a rare away win at the Kent club in the autumn.

However, Tunbridge had recruited and were a much more skilful side than that encountered earlier in the season. Nor did it assist Warlingham when, for the second successive game they were denied a perfectly good try when the referee indicated he
did not see the ball touched down despite the visitors’ touch judge indicating the score was valid.

With four international players on the pitch – Warlingham fielding Finnish and Belgian players and Tunbridge Spanish and Maltese internationals – this brought an extra edge to the proceedings. After an early penalty miss Warlingham’s scrum half Joe McEvoy made a clean break from a ruck and the ensuing scrum and maul lead to the dependable flanker Tom Street burrowing over for an unconverted try.

The lead was soon erased when Tunbridge counter-attacked and a deft cross kick found their winger who scored the visitors’ first converted try. Warlingham regained the lead with a penalty from McEvoy, but the Tunbridge backs looked dangerous at every phase and a No8 move from a scrum close to the Warlingham line resulted in their second
converted try.

Then matters got messy, as Warlingham full back Harry Wrightson left the field injured, closely followed by lock Luke Delderfield and Tom Street, disrupting the hosts squad’s structure, and any real hopes of battling back.

McEvoy slotted a second penalty just before the break but a missed tackle in midfield led to Tunbridge’s third converted try before the controversial denial of a score by winger Alex Skinner who had chased down a kick ahead.

The denied score was to be critical when No8 Mikal Ahola scored Warlingham’s second try, which would have put the home side back in the lead in the game and represented a significant shift in momentum.

Warlingham pressed through charges from Zack King and substitute Mike Fair but the visitors’ defence held firm and when the home side knocked on, the ball was scooped up by a Tunbridge back who scooted down the wing for their fourth, bonus-point try.

Warlingham might have also had a losing bonus point for being within seven points of the match-winners, too, when fly-half James Agate found a gap in the tight defence, kicked ahead and was clear for the line, but was denied the score by an unlucky touch forward.

As the depleted Warlingham pack played catch-up rugby, Tunbridge broke away and their fifth try brought the game to a close.

Elsewhere, in London 3SW, Old Mid-Whitgiftians and Purley-John Fisher were both without games last weekend – they have not had any league action now since December 14 due to the Christmas break and boggy pitches. They will hope that their scheduled fixtures at Ellingham and Ringwood (for MidWives) and at home against Camberley can proceed at Parsons Pightle on Saturday.

Down in the county leagues, local clubs might be asking – with good reason – what happened to good neighbourliness. Old Walcountians are one place off the bottom of Surrey 1, and they need all the help they can get. A 9-7 defeat at the Clock House to Battersea Ironsides did not help, but they probably weren’t counting on Old Whitgiftians being tonked 40-19 at bottom-of-the-table Kingston.

And what a difference a season makes: this time last year, Streatham-Croydon were still making a bid for promotion from Surrey 2. Today, they are just two league points off the bottom of the table following the 34-8 defeat to Chipstead at Frant Road last week. At least their neighbours and namesakes, Croydon, did them a bit of a favour, winning 17-8 at bottom club Old Rutlishians.

That victory hoists Croydon to third place in the division, but probably too far detached to have any serious prospect of promotion back to Surrey 1, from where they were relegated last April.

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