Cheston Leads Chiswick Revival

Rugby result: Chiswick 30 Harpenden 29

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Having been snared in the Harpies Den earlier in the season, and lagging 11-29 to the second team in the League, with twenty five minutes to go, Chiswick’s season seemed over. The players’ heads were still up, however, and cheered on by a large crowd of supporters, the home team put in a late charge to achieve an unlikely victory.

Attacking determinedly from the start, Chiswick were 3-0 up in under a minute, courtesy of the right boot of Tom Duffy. When Harpenden responded, their backs got a taste of centre Simon Hallett’s tackling ability, as he sped from one tackled opponent and wrapped up the recipient of his forced pass. The next Harpenden move caught Chiswick out. A diagonal chip by the scrum half back was caught by their No.5, streaking down the right touchline. Trading passes with their prop, he then put in the supporting fly half for an unconverted try.

Ben Cheston fielded a long kick and flew back into the visitors’ 22; quick recycling forced Harpenden to give away another penalty, stroked sweetly over the bar by Duffy. Rory Fletcher was coping well with the No.8 duties and he and Luca Vannini managed to get the attacks going even behind a scrum clearly under pressure. Half way through the first half, and Duffy suddenly misses a fairly easy penalty. Chiswick then defended well in their 22, despite losing a scrum against the head, and eventually came away to surge down the other end again.

It was a long Harpenden kick that brought a home defensive blunder, and the visitors suddenly had a five metre scrum. Simple handling along the line, and then their fly half broke a couple of tackles to go in under the posts. The conversion duly followed. The restart was a disaster. Hallett’s excellent high kick arrived with a Graham Robbings label, and the referee took offence at the mismatch coming-together, and yellow-carded the Chiswick player. Five minutes to half-time, and Keith Luckman decided to kick for the corner as Chiswick attacked. Big mistake. The Harpenden full back linked well with his wing, both showing good pace, down the right touchline, with the home defence nowhere. A good kick rubbed salt into the wound.

Early in the second half, Harpenden were reduced to 14 ( a trip?) but still managed another try ( converted ) by their outside centre as Chiswick failed to get enough tackles in in their 22. Chiswick came back and after Fletcher had salvaged a Chiswick lineout, Ben Kelly, Vannini and Luckman contrived to get Cheston away. His outside pass reached Gabriel Lowe, who flew into the right corner. The kick just failed. Trying to run a ball out of defence then cost Chiswick three points after a failure to release the ball. Both sides were making mistakes, but it was Chiswick who began to up the pressure. With Hallett submerged under several defenders as Chiswick tried to get the ball along the line, the home team managed to recycle the ball and Cheston tore through the remnants of the defence – 16-29 and twenty minutes to go.

Fifteen, another Harpenden yellow, and a glimmer of hope. Lowe, hemmed in, chips neatly down the line, but the ball is knocked on. The Chiswick pack are putting good pressure on the Harpenden scrum, and there is some space in midfield. A two man overlap is wasted by slow passing. Continuous Chiswick pressure, and they work their way into the visitors’ 22, only to give away a penalty. James Hitchmough is on for Duffy, Shane Donaldson for Jan Joubert, and eventually Chris Morris for Kelly; Robbings is putting the tackles in when Harpenden try to break, but their fly half spots half a gap and takes the ball up to the home 22, where good cover defence prevails. Fletcher again picks up as the scrum slides backwards, and Vannini makes a good break, only for Lowe to be shepherded into touch. Chiswick appear lucky not to be penalised near the home 22, but as Harpenden pause, Glen Tucker makes a break upfield, and Hallett and Cheston combine for the latter to score. Luckman converts.

The final minutes are interrupted by pained yells as a Harpenden back dislocates his shoulder. Chiswick are not in a merciful mood, and continue to press, retaining possession well. John Gibson hurtles for the line, only to be brought up short. Hallett has a try. Hitchmough falls just short. Chiswick get a penalty, and then another. Hallett finally breaches the Harpenden defence to tumultuous applause, and its down to Luckman. Deep breath, and the beautiful kick dreams over the bar. The whistle goes. What a match.

Chiswick team: Addison, Tucker, Joubert ( Donaldson ), McCullan, Tonkin, Robbings, Kelly ( Morris ), Fletcher, Vannini, Luckman, Lowe, Hallett, Gibson, Duffy ( Hitchmough ), Cheston

March 7, 2011