1stXV vs. Old Haberdashers, match report
CHILTERN SURVIVE A LATE SCARE TO FINISH THE YEAR 3RD IN THE LEAGUE TABLE
A very cold, grey, winters day greeted Old Haberdashers to Weedon Lane for the first time. A comprehensive victory at their ground earlier in the season was achieved despite them clearly having a talented group of players but who rarely train together.
Captain Ryan Cole and top point scorer Stuart Pearham were both away this week which saw Matt Heeks our backs playing coach make his home debut and his prompting and clever play saw Chiltern camped inside The OH half from the outset. The Chiltern lineout was working efficiently and driving runs from Steven Gibson and Dave Francis put early pressure on the opposition defence. Following good lineout possession the ball was recycled several times before Gibson was driven over the line for the first try. The try was unconverted and indeed there was only one successful kick for Chiltern throughout the game.
The OH approach was niggly and confrontational as they tried to knock Chiltern out of their stride. Despite this approach Chiltern kept pressing and after clever play Heeks slipped the ball to the blindside for Jack Kenyon to score the second try in the corner. With Chiltern well on top, successive injuries to centre Josh Davis tighthead prop Callum Newton and the outstanding Dave Francis meant that Chiltern had used up their full complement of substitutes within 20 minutes!
This allowed 0H to gain a foothold in the Chiltern half but strong defence kept them at bay. After a penalty was given in Chiltern’s favour the ensuing lineout resulted in an excellent rolling maul which saw stand in captain Jordan Scott dive over the line for Chiltern’s third try.
Half-time provided a welcome opportunity to seek some warmth in the clubhouse but it also perhaps took Chiltern’s mind off the game somewhat as, after only four minutes of the second-half, some sloppy tackling saw 0H cross for their first try which was converted and which made the score 15–7.
0H were enjoying their best spell of the game and decisions were certainly going their way. A couple of poor kicks and missed tackles allowed 0H field position again near the Chiltern line again which resulted in their second try which was again converted, 15–14!
The inexperience within the Chiltern side was clearly evident and 0H took full advantage of this. With about eight minutes to play 0H scored their third try which was fortunately unconverted. However it took them into the lead for the first time and an upset was clearly on the cards. In the build up to the try Ross Bugden was yellow carded for killing the ball and so Chiltern were now looking down the barrel of the gun as they sought to find some way of winning the game with just 14 men. Cool heads did however prevail and some excellent running from Chris Jack and Lloyd Anderson took Chiltern to within a whisker of the OH line before being stopped illegally.
A successful penalty kick would not have been sufficient to secure the win for Chiltern and so for nearly 4 minutes they battered the opposition line and with just two minutes left on the clock back row Joe Batt forced his way over for Chiltern’s fourth and bonus point try which was converted by Jack Kenyon 22-19.
Despite still only having 14 players on the pitch Chiltern held on comfortably to secure the win that took them back to 3rd place in the league.
It was not a pretty game to watch but a 5 point win was very welcome. It was a game that needed tighter control and was hardly an edifying spectacle for the large crowd who had earlier enjoyed an excellent Christmas lunch.
That said at the start of the season Chiltern would have gladly accepted third place in the table as they enter the Christmas break!
Sadly high Wycombe RFC have withdrawn from the Bucks Cup semi-final which was due to be played on 30 December. However the squad now have a three week break which will be hugely welcome and will provide some time to work on those injured players whose presence has definitely been missed over the last few weeks.
Can I just finish by wishing all players, coaches and supporters a very happy Christmas and we look forward to the second half of the season which starts with an away game at Letchworth on 6 January 2018.