RUGBY ROUND-UP: Old Whitgiftians, after a 20-year exile from London divisional rugby, claimed their first win of the season on Saturday, as they beat Warlingham 22-14 at Croham Manor Road.
In the first clash between the two clubs at 1st XV level for at least a dozen years, the ease of Old Whits’ victory was something of a shock. Warlingham had enjoyed a convincing start to the season the previous week, when they had put 50 points on the board in their opener against Trojans.
Warlingham had been forced to make five changes from the side that had won 51-10 seven days earlier, and here they faced an inspired performance from Whits’ play-maker, stand-off Andy Marshall, and one of their former players.
Newly promoted Old Whits had lost their first game of the London 3SW season, 38-28 at Teddington.
Against Warlingham, their young side was pressed hard early on, their defensive mettle tested, and held firm.
After Warlingham failed to capitalise on a couple of early penalty opportunities, the first score of the derby came 20 minutes into the match, from a scrum on the Whits’ 22, when a break by the hosts’ No8, Alex Smith, released scrum-half Matthew Clark, who started a move that took the play back down the field for the opening (unconverted) try.
Following an injury to centre Jack Atkinson, Warlingham were forced to play with a re-structured back-line, and struggled to cope with the youthful Old Whits backs. Soon, Clark was sniping around the breakdown again to claim the second try (which was converted), taking his side in 12-0 up at the break.
Warlingham’s bad habits, of giving away cheap penalties, set the visitors further back in the opening phases of the second period, and one of the penalties conceded ultimately led to the third Whits try, scored by new boy Jamie Taylor at full-back.
As both sides’ packs visibly wilted in the autumn sunshine, the gaps began to appear in defence, giving space for Taylor to run in his second of the match to make it 22-0, securing Whitgiftians the four-try bonus point for the second consecutive week.
It was not until 20 minutes from the final whistle that Warlingham finally got on the scoreboard, after a knock-on around halfway bounced away from any of the home teams players and fell straight into the hands of Warlingham’s fly-half, Joe McEvoy, to run under the post. McEvoy kicked the extras.
A key moment came soon after, when Warlingham turned down a penalty in front of the posts, which would have brought them to within two tries with 15 minutes left, in favour of an attacking scrum. But they failed to capitalise and Old Whits cleared their lines with the clock ticking down.
Some magic footwork from Warlingham youngster Callum Wand on the wing saw him evade three tacklers to clinch a fine individual try, and set the stripe-blazers Old Whits on the touchline a few minutes’ worth of nail-biting, though their side shored up its defence to maintain their lead to the finish.
Old Whitgiftians travel to Portsmouth tomorrow, while Warlingham face Teddington at Hamsey Green (3pm kick-off), hopeful of a return to the free-flowing, free-scoring form of a fortnight ago.
That seven-try performance was described on the club’s own website as “arguably one of the most complete Warlingham performances in recent years”, with flying wing Funsho Ajayi crossing the whitewash four times in a breath-taking display.
FOR THE majority of local clubs, the season only starts tomorrow, with the opening matches in Surrey 1 and the county-based divisions below that.
The three clubs in and around Croydon – Old Mid-Whitgiftians, Old Walcountians and Chipstead – all have away trips for their Surrey 1 openers.
Old Walcs look to have the toughest set of opening fixtures, as they are on the road this week (at Weybridge) and next (Old Amplefordians), before two successive derby clashes – at their Clockhouse home ground against Chipstead (Oct 6) and then a visit to Lime Meadow Avenue to take on MidWives (Oct 20) – with MidWives making pre-season noises about their determination not to blow their promotion challenge as they did last term.
In Surrey 2, Purley John Fisher kick-off their season tomorrow at home in Old Coulsdon against the Metropolitan Police, while Streatham-Croydon travel to Kingston.
Having dodged relegation for a couple of years, Croydon finally fell through the trap-door in May and embark on the new season in the eight-team Surrey 4. They play at Addington Road tomorrow, hosting a side which perhaps could only be found in the bottom division of Surrey senior rugby, Egham Hollowegians.
WARLINGHAM WILDCATS, the Hamsey Green club’s women’s squad, are celebrating another player success, after second-rower Becky Saffery made her Premiership debut at the weekend.
Liverpool University student Saffery was selected for Waterloo RFC to play in the 24-12 win at Richmond.
Craig McIntosh, the Warlingham coach, said, “This is really great news for us. I’ve coached Becky for several years and she’s always been outstanding in her dedication and commitment to training. This just shows how, even as a relatively new women’s section, Warlingham can still produce class players.
“This will definitely inspire our other promising women, both senior and age-group players.”
Contact your local rugby clubs here:
- Old Mid-Whitgiftians
- Old Walcountians
- Old Whitgiftians
- Purley John Fisher
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