Chiswick Dish Up Cold Comfort

Rugby result: Chiswick 33 Hemel Hempstead 7

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Last season’s co-promotees have a special regard for each other, but the cold, sticky conditions produced, most of the time, a boring stalemate. Yes, Hemel’s pack was in the ascendancy scrummaging, and yes, the Chiswick lineout was, at least for the first half, a shambles, but the visitors’ attack could make little impression on an impressive home defence. Conversely, the strategy of kicking away possession when in their own half, only worked for Chiswick when the Hemel defence made mistakes, which they occasionally did.

Keith Luckman produced a good long kick early on, and with Ben Cheston up very fast the Hemel defence was under pressure. Hemel, stuck in their 22, gave away several penalties in the next couple of minutes, and Nico Fryer, making a sniping run around the packs, nearly got clean through. A panicked defender then sliced a clearance kick to Fryer, who put Cheston away to link with winger Marc Jones. Jones found a splendid diagonal line in towards the posts to wrong-foot the defence, and with Luckman slotting the kick, Chiswick were ( unusually ) the first team to score, after twelve minutes.

Having failed to catch the kick-off ball, Chiswick were immediately under the cosh themselves as the Hemel pack mauled to near the home line. A five metre scrum provided a chance for them to push the home pack steadily towards the line, and an apparent attempt to pull the scrum down resulted in a penalty try for the visitors, duly converted. Hemel, in turn, made a hash of dealing with the kick-off, but the Chiswick pack went backwards in the resulting scrum, and it was newcomer Simon Hallett who finally tidied up.

A marginal mistake by the Hemel scrum-half, who just failed to find touch, was magnified enormously by the fact that it was Stuart Parmeter under the ball. Determined to show the home threes how to play, he shot off and then produced the perfect pass to Al Pickering, who thundered down the left touch-line. Pickering released the ball inside as he was finally tackled, and a brilliant pick-up and inside pass by the unquenchable and ubiquitous Fryer found Chris Morris in support to hare over the line ( the touchline pundits mused the possibility of a forward pass, but the referee was happy ). Luckman converted, with three first half minutes left on the clock. A penalty kick by Hemel fell just short and Chiswick rubbed salt into the wound with a straight forward try, Hallett coming into the line as the ball was moved right, drawing his man and setting Cheston free. Cheston unselfishly gave the ball to captain John Gibson to go under the posts for try number three. Luckman’s kick was more two iron than wedge, but scraped over.

Chiswick’s scrum was looking more solid, with newcomer Affy Okeshola adding some weight to the front row, and with the lineout getting tidier also, the home supporters began to relax. With more ball, the Chiswick threes got more adventurous, and then they got a turnover ball, following an Okeshola tackle, which Jones fed out to Luckman, in space. Accelerating into the gap, the fly half set Cheston off down the right wing. The return pass bounced back off Luckman’s shoulder, but found Adie Lewis on the follow-up, and Lewis did a few feints before scoring in the right corner – too far out for Luckman to convert. Twenty eight minutes to go.

Hemel had a couple of easy chances for three points with penalties on the home 22, but decided to run it, or have a scrum. Mistake – the Chiswick defence held firm, and eventually Hemel knocked on. The visitors stayed around the home 22, however, and with Fryer, suffering from cramp, having to retire, the heat was really on. Hands in the ruck, and Hemel have another chance of three points, but decide to tap. Their maul is nearly over the home line when Parmeter emerges with the ball for Chiswick. The siege is lifted and minutes later a long upfield clearance by sub Ben Sullivan is fielded by a Hemel back, who throws a long pass infield, only to see his fellow back knock on, and Cheston gratefully pick up. No-one was going to catch him, and the conversion was a formality. The last ten minutes were uneventful.

Chiswick team :- Donaldson, Joubert ( Okeshola ), Parmeter, Hood, Pickering M, Morris ( Adams ), Robbings, Pickering A, Fryer ( Sullivan ), Luckman, Hallett, Gibson, Cheston, Jones, Lewis

February 2, 2010