Chiswick Repel The Swarm
Rugby result: Grasshoppers 26 Chiswick 41
Success or relative failure is not quite yet in Chiswick’s hands. Next week Hammersmith play hosts to Harpenden, and if the unbeaten league leaders win, Chiswick and Harpenden will be neck and neck for a play-off place, with one match left.
For a while in this match it looked as though Chiswick had blown it, some exciting attacking rugby by Grasshoppers, needing a win, embarrassing a tentative Chiswick defence. From the first lineout, Grasshoppers took the ball at the front of the first lineout and mauled well upfield before spreading the ball wide. Their inside centre went through the defender, and the ball went out wide before their full back ran round behind the posts. 7-0, one minute gone, and the numerous home supporters jumping up and down in glee. With John Gibson missing, the Chiswick backs spent a while getting acquainted, with occasional muted suggestions. The home tackling also looked a bit suspect as Chiswick came back strongly, and spent a couple of minutes close to the home line. Chiswick gained a couple of penalties but failed to put any points on the board.
Grasshoppers missed a kickable penalty, but gained a scrum on the edge of the Chiswick 22. With good control by their No.8, they had several phases of possession, and after seventy seconds their No.6, finding himself in front of the posts, burst straight through several “tackles” to score. 14-0 after twenty minutes, and the home supporters might have been thinking “easy, easy”. Chiswick responded well to the sting, and after both centres had taken the wrong option, scrum half Luca Vannini took it upon himself to show them how it was done, drawing the defender before placing his pass straight into the overlapping Rory Fletcher’s hands for a score in the right corner. Tom Duffy, probably still shaken by the two home tries, just failed with his kick.
It was Vannini, however, who then had a pass out intercepted, to set up a dangerous home attack, broken up by Duffy going for, and almost achieving, an interception of his own. The Chiswick forwards were just about surviving in the scrums, with Fletcher coping with the backward movements, and Rowan Tonkin a good target man in the lineouts. Another sustained attack by the Grasshoppers pack, starting with a good maul, led to a burst through the Chiswick defence by their outside half. A great surge by their No.6, and the ball was out to the wing for a try in the corner, not converted. There appeared no danger when Fletcher managed to smuggle the ball out from a retreating Chiswick scrum in midfield, but Keith Luckman found Ben Cheston on a sprint through the middle which annihilated the home defence. Duffy did well to stay in touch, and was rewarded with a slick pass, from which he scored, and then added the points. Grasshoppers missed a fairly easy penalty kick, so there was seven points between the teams at half time.
The wind backed from a cross-pitch one to a diagonal one to aid Chiswick in the second half, and their kickers made the most of it. Two minutes in Duffy slotted a penalty, but the next minutes were all attack and counter-attack, with Chiswick benefiting from kicks to Cheston, the master at running back at defences. The next score was bizarre, the stuff of nightmares, as an attempted Grasshoppers clearance kick went straight and fast into Duffy’s stomach, a gift not to be rejected. 19-20, and Chiswick in front with thirty minutes to go. The kick was simple. Chiswick’s back row of Ben Kelly, Graham Robbings and Fletcher formed a formidable tackling unit, and the balance had definitely shifted.
The home pack were still mauling distances, and when the ball was released quickly it was a beautiful dummy by the home fly half which split the Chiswick first line of defence, for their mazy waif-like outside centre to curve through the tattered remnants for a try that revivified the home supporters. 26-22, and twenty five minutes left.
Luckman found a fast-moving Robbings with a good inside pass, and Glen Tucker got over the line, only for the ref to call him back. Jamie Hitchmough came on for Gabriel Lowe, and immediately toughed his way to the corner, following a Fletcher pick up and another immaculate Vannini pass. Inspired substitution ! The kick failed, but Chiswick looked confident as they maintained possession and pressure. Tom Adams eventually got on, in place of a hobbling Robbings, and Chiswick scored again, Simon Hallett linking well with Cheston for the latter to score his first try of the game, duly converted by Duffy. The fitter and harder-hitting Chiswick team were now in control, and the final, well-merited, try was scored by the ubiquitous Tucker, going outside the defender from roughly the fly half position.
Chiswick team :- Addison, Tucker, Joubert ( Donaldson ), McMullan, Tonkin, Robbings ( Adams ), Kelly, Fletcher, Vannini, Luckman, Duffy, Hallewell, Hallett, Lowe ( Hitchmough ), Cheston
March 14, 2011