Warlingham bounce back to keep alive promotion talk

Purley-John Fisher, after a couple of tough seasons, have made an encouraging start in Surrey 2 this year

RUGBY ROUND-UP: For rugby alickados, the old farts in blazers, there’s long been a sense that the club season hasn’t properly started until the clocks go back, and kick-off for Saturday matches is brought forward from 3pm.

And there’s also the strong sense that when anyone within club circles starts to talk, all-too-boldly, of promotion challenges and season-long success, a kick up the arse can’t be too far away.

So it proved for London 3SW club Warlingham, when bolstered by an impressive 31-22 away win at Portsmouth at the start of October, their director of rugby, Nick Warren, actually said, “I believe we can seriously aim for a promotion season.”

Of course, next game up, a fortnight later, as Sod’s Law dictates and Warlingham suffered their first home defeat of the 2018-2019 season, 31-17 to United Services Portsmouth, the division’s second-placed side.

But maybe Warren does have cause for his flush of optimism, as last Saturday he saw his side bounce back on its latest trip into Hampshire, to Andover, where they romped to a 37-5 win, hoovering up more try bonus points.

Seven games into the season, that puts Warlingham fifth in the division, albeit 10 points off table-toppers Winchester, but well in the mix, and well teed-up for this Saturday’s visit to Hamsey Green of sixth-placed Old Georgians.

Optimistic: Nick Warren

Warren’s up-beat comments after the Portsmouth game were all about context. “To win away at Portsmouth is a very tough proposition and you need to go back to 2016 to see the last time they lost at home,” he said.

“Last season, we conceded 65 points there.

“This alone is a great achievement after the club has had a rough two years (and that’s an understatement). There’s lots of work ahead, but the Portsmouth victory is a thank you to those players who stuck with the club during those dark days and the unwavering support from the WAGS and the Golden Oldies who have been vocal about the results because they care.

“Warlingham rugby club is in a good place, our senior rugby is on the up, our minis/youth section is one of the strongest in the county, and if the whole club gets behind the 1st XV, I believe we can seriously aim for a promotion season.”

Newcomers at the London 3SW level, Old Whitgiftians, are enduring their own “dark days” right now, last Saturday’s 48-5 stuffing at Battersea Ironsides being their fifth on the bounce. They sit ninth in the league table going into November, with three teams below them.

On Saturday, Old Whits play host at Croham Manor Road to the league leaders, Winchester (2.30pm kick-off).

Purley-John Fisher (in the lighter shirts) extended their unbeaten run this season with a 42-3 win over Bec Old Boys

In Surrey 2 – two divisions below Warlingham and Old Whitgiftians – Purley-John Fisher have been enjoying a runaway start to the season, unbeaten five games in, with a roistering 42-3 win over Bec Old Boys at Parsons Pightle last Saturday to put them firmly on the top of the table.

Tellingly, with the side’s attacking, running rugby, they have managed to collect their try-scoring bonus point (for four tries) before half-time in all of their games so far. Against Bec, their try scorers were centre Luke Crouchman, scrum-half Jack Kennedy (two, the first after a thrilling 50-yard breakway run and kick ahead by wing Declan Williams), Joe Dwyer (2) and Dom Driver, with Pierce Fernando kicking 12 points.

A clever kick ahead by Dom Williams set up PJF’s second try against Bec Old Boys

On Saturday, PJF travel to Merton to face Old Rutlishians, while Streatham-Croydon hope to end their win-less streak with a home game at Frant Road against fellow strugglers Old Wellingtonians.

One tier above, in Surrey 1, and the three local clubs sit third, fourth and fifth in the table, with Chipstead having a marginal advantage ahead of Old Mid-Whitgiftians and Old Walcountians respectively.

MidWives enjoyed a 24-5 win at Old Amplefordians last Saturday, when Walcs were stuffing Freemans 59-12, and Chipstead eked out a tough 27-22 at Weybridge Vandals.

But it was the previous week that delivered a true derby thriller, as Mid-Whitgiftians edged out Walcountians by the odd point in 29 at Lime Meadow Avenue, with outside-centre Okinla racing over for the decisive try to make it 15-14 in the closing minutes.

Walcountians are away versus Law Society this Saturday, when there is another hotly contested derby in prospect, as Chipstead travel to Sanderstead to take on MidWives.

Meanwhile, down in Surrey 4, the loyal supporters of Croydon RFC must be pinching themselves. After years when one league win a season was an above-average return, Croydon have already accumulated four wins from their five games, and sit third in the table following last week’s 52-15 win over Haslemere. This Saturday, Croydon have an away game against Old Suttonians.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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