RUGBY ROUND-UP: Local derbies galore, a first league win for one club in two years, and a tough first few games have characterised the opening month of the season
Purley John Fisher claimed an important win on Saturday, with a hard-fought 20-17 victory over Old Mid-Whitgiftians at Parsons Pightle in Old Coulsdon.
Yet despite their unbeaten start to the season so far, with two wins and a draw, PJF remain just one place off the bottom of the Surrey 1 table, as they have carried over penalty points from last season when they were sanctioned for not having the required number of specialist front-row forwards.
“The club can firmly draw a line under last season’s chapter and now we have our destiny firmly in our own hands,” a spokesman said, with a strong sense of relief.
With four clubs from Croydon and the surrounding area all competing in Surrey 1 this season, there’s more than enough derby fixtures going around to sort out local rivalries, and PJF’s match with MidWives was suitably hard-fought, only a try with the final move of the match separating the sides.
MidWives came into the game off the back of a 24-31 injury time defeat seven days earlier to Old Whitgiftians, and with a rapidly mounting injury list which saw them give debuts to nine players.
Purley John Fisher fielded a relatively young and inexperienced side as they sought their first win over their local rivals in three years.
Following a Dan Wilkinson penalty for the home side after three minutes, the first try came from a MidWives line-out, with flanker Dan Leadbeater getting the touchdown. Dan Crouch kicked the conversion.
The next score did not come until injury time at the end of the half, when Fisher spread the ball well and poor tackling allowed centre Ubi Onyekwelu to cross for a converted try and a half-time lead of 10-7.
Wilkinson increased the home side’s lead to 13-7 with a penalty early in the second half. MidWives got back into the game after wing Rob Farmer ghosted over for his second try in as many games. Crouch added the extras to make the score 13-14 to the visitors.
MidWives dominated the next half hour, with Fisher always dangerous on the break, and an outstanding tackle by the visitors’ replacement wing Tim Marsh denying what appeared a certain try. With three minutes remaining, Crouch slotted another penalty to make it 13-17 with the clock ticking down.
Into the fifth minute of overtime, and Wilkinson was under pressure behind his own try line when he floated a pass to Onyekwelu, who broke up-field and then passed to Ryan Snadden for the score, which was duly converted.
After their two derby day disappointments, MidWives – who won on the opening weekend 44-22 against Old Georgians – must now hope that they can hang on to a lead to the final whistle for their game against Old Wimbledonians at their Sanderstead home ground, Lime Meadow Avenue, on Saturday, when they will be in front of a gathering of former players.
PJF have now beaten Chipstead and drawn with Old Emanuel, and this Saturday travel to Old Freemans.
Old Whitgiftians top the Surrey 1 table at this early stage after three victories, having also beaten Chipstead and Freemans. In a 11-team division, the league leaders have a Saturday off this week.
DOWN IN SURREY 3, and one of the least-wanted sequences in sport – Croydon’s two-year losing streak – finally came to an end with a 31-7 win over Reigate.
Croydon had struggled through two whole league seasons in Surrey 2 without a win or even a draw, and they started this term one division lower. They got the perfect start on Saturday with a bonus point for a fourth try with the final move of the match.
Croydon’s tries were scored by Alex Griffiths, hooker Smutley Matthews from a stolen line-out ball, Andrew Lyell and Paul Ware, with Jack Bond, as well as pulling the strings from No10, kicking four conversions and a penalty.
The result was vindication, of sorts, for skipper Billy Simons, who had led the Croydon first XV through the last two lean years. This was the club’s first win since the last game of the 2013-2014 season – a 22-12 result in Surrey 2 over Old Amplefordians, for the record, played on Saturday, April 12, 2014.
And it could not have come at a better time: Croydon is celebrating the club’s 60th anniversary this year. They travel to Merton on Saturday to play Old Rutlishians.
In the opening fixtures of Surrey 2 last Saturday, Old Walcountians beat Cranleigh 30-17, while Streatham-Croydon lost 15-12 at Kingston. Streatham-Croydon have their first home fixture of the season at Frant Road, Thornton Heath, on Saturday, against Economicals, while Old Wals travel to Kingston.
THINGS ARE LOOKING a bit grim up at Hamsey Green, where the area’s leading club, Warlingham, playing in London 2SW, have been beset with injury and “unavailability issues”, and have suffered three stonking defeats in three weeks.
Last Saturday, it was 48-10 to London Exiles, while on the opening weekend, Warlingham lost 48-18 to Tonbridgians. But it was the 65-0 hammering at home a fortnight ago to London Cornish which really set the alarm bells ringing.
In that game, Warlingham were forced to play much of the match with just 14 men on the park, not because of any disciplinary issues, but because injuries saw them run out of players.
At Exiles last Saturday, the home side had scored three tries before Warlingham managed to get on to the scoreboard through a Peter Jecks penalty. Exiles had scored six tries by the time that Josh Coakes, making his Warlingham debut at centre, fed winger Ollie Reynoldson who claimed a deserved try which was converted by Jecks.
This Saturday Warlingham host Twickenham at Hamsey Green, kick off 3pm.
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