RUGBY ROUND-UP: With four local clubs in the division, Surrey 1 was always going to provide some keen interest this season. As Old Whitgiftians, MidWives, Walcountians and Chipstead enter the final lap of the 2018 club rugby race, no one might have predicted that they would occupy four of the top five places in the league.
It may be mid-February, but for the doughty amateurs of club rugby who have been slugging it out for six months, the finishing post is in sight, with just five league fixtures remaining after Saturday’s round of matches.
And with an eight-point lead in the division, Old Whitgiftians look like they are on their way to the Surrey title and promotion.
Following a good away win earlier this month at Law Society and a win over Old Freemans, Saturday’s 32-26 victory at Croham Road over Old Georgians, who had been their closest challengers, has put the Surrey 1 championship within Whits’ grasp.
But Saturday’s game was a tight-run thing.That victory was achieved when Whits had a man in the sin bin and were three points down going into the last 10 minutes says much about their fortitude under head coach John Youngs.
In a fast-flowing game played in near-perfect conditions, two first-half tries by Jordon Lewis – described by his own club as a “Christmas pudding-shaped winger” – and a penalty kicked by former Oxford University full-back Tim Catling gave Whits a 13-8 half-time lead.
Playing down the Croham slope in the second half, Whits expected to stretch their lead. But the players were unsettled when outside centre Sam Mount sustained a nasty knee injury which will likely leave him out for the rest of the season.
After a lengthy delay while the player received attention, a penalty awarded to Georgians saw them close the gap to just two points, until Lewis – by now moved in off the wing to play at centre – finished off a sharp move off the back of a scrum involving No8 Jonathan Mount (Sam’s brother) and scrum-half Matthew Clark. Catling converted from the touchline: 20-11 with 20 minutes to play.
But Georgians’ strong young unit wasn’t going to give up easily and, forced to play catch-up, they now opted to kick penalties into touch for an attacking line-out, and their pack duly delivered a try.
Then it was the backs’ turn, and when the Georgians’ wing raced towards the touchline, only to be stopped by Whits’ fly-half Andrew Marshall, the referee judged the tackle to be dangerously high, awarded a penalty try and brandished the yellow card. Georgians were ahead for the first time in the game, with time running out.
After the re-start, a penalty saw Whits kick for the corner, and it was not long before a rolling maul off the line-out and Catling’s reliable boot saw the home side restored to the lead.
That seemed to knock the stuffing out of Georgians, who resorted to some foul play which saw their second-rower ordered to the bin. Whits opted to kick the penalty to the corner again for a replay of the previous try, this one credited to No8 Mount.
Georgians kicked a late penalty, but it was too little, too late.
Most teams have next Saturday – a Six Nations weekend – off, meaning Whits’ next action is another key encounter, against fourth-placed Walcountians on March 3, when coach Youngs will doubtless be demanding a special effort from his players.
Whits’ march to the title has seen them lose just once since November, and that was against their fiercest rivals, Old Mid-Whitgiftians.
MidWives are making a strong case for promotion themselves, their 59-7 win at Old Amplefordians on Saturday propelling them into second place in the division
According to one club officials, this was, “A magnificent display of forward domination and scintillating running turned this into Old Mid-Whitgiftians’ best performance of the season.”
Tries were scored by No8 George Daniels, wing Marc McEvilly (2), Andy Dean, Tom Webster, Matt Shields, John Bocking and Mark Handley, with the bonus point – which could prove vitally important in the promotion chase – secured before half-time. Dan Crouch showed no mercy from the kicking tee, converting seven of the nine tries scored – one of the misses hitting the post.
In the local head-to-head on Saturday, Old Walcountians lost at home to Chipstead, 17-20, with the two clubs now fourth and fifth respectively in the division.
That’s effectively out of any promotion chase, but still with a part to play in determining the destination of the end-of-season silverware: Walcs’ next two games are at Whits on March 3 and then at home to MidWives on March 10.
MidWives’ next game, on March 3, is at home to Chipstead, which should be another fiesty derby.
Streatham-Croydon’s burgeoning women’s section, after benefiting from training sessions led by a World Cup-winning captain, took on Oxford University in a 15-a-side game at Frant Road earlier this month, winning 25-5.
“Once Streatham-Croydon got into the groove, there was no stopping them. They continued playing despite injuries, snow and hail. They worked together as a team and won quite comfortably,” according to one observer.
Streatham-Croydon’s women squad is open for new recruits of all abilities, training at Frant Road, Thornton Heath, from 6.30pm every Tuesday.
WARLINGHAM, the area’s senior club, playing above the county-level leagues in London 3SW, were celebrating seven successive wins on Saturday night, after coming back from 15-3 down to win 32-27 at Weybridge Vandals.
It is an impressive turnround in fortunes for the Hamsey Green club, who got to the end of November having won just twice and losing eight matches.
Winning eight games in succession might be a tough ask, though: their next game is at home on March 3 against league leaders Old Cranleighians.
Contact your local rugby clubs here:
- Old Mid-Whitgiftians
- Old Walcountians
- Old Whitgiftians
- Purley John Fisher
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