Griffiths try sets up hard-earned win for Croydon

RUGBY ROUND-UP: The wettest January since records began has caused havoc with fixture lists for local rugby clubs, but Croydon RFC were able to get their match against Economicals on last Saturday, and after a bright start hung on for a 16-12 victory to take them to third place in Surrey 2, although probably just too far away from the pacesetters to challenge for promotion.

Croydon's No8 and scrum half take the attack to the opposition last weekend. Photo by Chloe Tilling

Croydon’s No8 and their scrum half take the attack to the opposition off the back of a scrum last weekend. Photo by Chloe Tilling

Guy Maynard started the scoreboard ticking with an easy penalty after five  minutes.

Croydon enjoyed total dominance for the next 15 minutes but could not turn pressure into points. Twice, Jonnie Griffiths almost latched on to kicks ahead to score, as did Will Curtis, who later failed to spot James Griffiths unmarked outside him, 10 metres out.

Dave Thornton was twice held up over the line, before a crooked feed to the scrum eventually enabled the visitors to relieve the pressure.

Ironically, Croydon scored from the ensuing line out 20 metres out. A good catch and drive took them close and Curtis’s well-timed pass to James Griffiths this time saw the wing force his way over.

Croydon were particularly dominant in the set scrum and Chris Pecorella was the pick of the forwards around the park, snaffling a number of turnovers in the loose.

Maynard added a second penalty five minutes from half-time, but the margin at the break should have been much more than 11 points.

Croydon made a text-book start to the second half. A series of drives through the forwards, quick recycling and slick handling saw Thornton giving the scoring pass to Andrew Lyell after only two minutes. The set scrum remained solid, but two further chances were squandered. And then the game turned.

In their No8, Oliver Townsend, Economicals had the best player on the field and he made ground every time he touched the ball, despite playing behind a struggling pack. Their scrum half took advantage of several quick penalties as Croydon transgressed in the loose and, now playing into the wind, Croydon could not get out of their own 22.

With 10 minutes to go, the visitors scored in the corner from yet another, tap penalty and three minutes later a second try followed, this time converted to set up a desperate finish. There were appeals around the ground for a knock on, but there was no excuse for Croydon’s scrappy play which contributed to the situation.

The final play of the match saw the visitors awarded a five-metre scrum. Alarm bells rang as the No8 waited, but Croydon’s set piece held up, the feed was crooked, and Croydon held on to their four league points.

With a week off from league action – allowing club bars to tick-over during an afternoon of Six Nations action – Croydon’s next fixture is at Frant Road on February 8, where Streatham and Croydon will be desperate for a victory.

After being stuffed 39-0 by top-of-the-table Law Society last Saturday, the area’s most senior club Streatham and Croydon are now plumb bottom of Surrey 2 and facing the prospect of relegation and playing at least a season in Surrey 3 against the likes of rugby low-lifes London Media, Mitcham and the Metropolitan Police…

Old Walcountians are now the bottom side in Surrey 1, following their 43-5 defeat to promotion-chasing Old Tiffinians. Old Whitgiftians won their game against Old Tonbridgians 24-18.

Purley-John Fisher are the only local side due to be in action on Saturday, travelling to lowly Old Wellingtonians for a match that was called off previously because of waterlogged pitches. PJF are ninth of the 12 teams in London 3SW following their 29-15 win over London Exiles last weekend. Less encouraging news from Old Mid-Whitgiftians, who lost 20-3 at Eastleigh.

The curate’s egg of a season for the area’s leading side, Warlingham, in London 2SE bumps along, following a 25-3 defeat at Deal and Betteshanger.

Shorn of several regular first-teamers with long-term injuries, Warlingham’s head coach Ben Stobart was pressed into the No4 shirt and acquitted himself with aplomb during his 30 minutes on the pitch.

Deal’s backline looked sharp and their first try came from some swift handling despite the foul conditions. Front rowers Kieran Scutt, Alex Nunn and Ant Abou-Zeid tackled their hearts out to keep the game winnable and young Adam Downie-Keene threatened on the wing.

Newly signed flanker, AJ Hemsley made his mark by folding the Deal No10 in half with a shuddering tackle, stopping the game for several minutes while the Deal medics brought the fly-half back into the land of the living. Warlingham spent long periods of play in the Deal 22 with their pick and go style, but the home side’s defence held.

When Deal attacked the Warlingham line virtually all their players joined a ruck to drive over for the second, unconverted, try.

With the gale driving across the pitch, the turn round made little difference for advantage and Deal slotted two well-struck penalties. A Joe McEvoy penalty got Warlingham on the scoreboard, but it was to be their soul reward for the afternoon.

Deal’s forward power overwhelmed Warlingham in the final stages and led to their third converted try.

Warlingham are without a game this weekend, though a large contingent from Hamsey Green have got on their bikes, and are undertaking a charity cycle ride to Paris ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations game between France and an England side led by former Warlingham youth player Chris Robshaw.

  • Trinity School, the area’s last side in the English schools’ competition, lost a hard-fought game at cup-holders Dulwich College 15-5 on Wednesday.
  • Former Whitgift star Elliot Daly was the outstanding player for England Saxons in the back-up XV’s defeat to Irish Wolfhounds at Gloucester last week, and he is due to play again tomorrow, this time with the Wasps full-back switched to the centres. Daly’s one-time school team mate, England international wing Marland Yarde, today confirmed that he will be moving to Harlequins next season from London Irish.
  • Trinity Old Boy George Chuter, the former Leicester and England hooker, was last week inducted into the English Premiership Hall of Fame.

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