Chiswick Hard Pressed By Reformed Merchant Taylors
Result :- Old Merchant Taylors 15 Chiswick 23
The magnificent ground conditions at Sandy Lodge, and the super lunch served at table in the splendid new Clubhouse, were not matched in quality by the rugby offering provided.
Early on, the Chiswick wing Tom Steer escaped down the left touchline and was haring for the goal line when an arm wrapped itself round his neck. What was the referee going to do? In fact he awarded, correctly, a yellow card and a penalty try, to the irritation of a large home crowd. With Simon Hallett in excellent kicking form, that was 7-0, and a fired-up home team.
It soon became apparent that there was going to be little neat play, as both teams were getting scrappy possession from the set pieces, with the scrums wheeling all over the place, and the lineout throw-ins lacking accuracy. Hallett made his only kicking mistake of the match, missing touch when Chiswick had a chance of achieving a five-metre lineout, finding.
Meanwhile Luca Vannini started a highly effective one-man disruption action around the back of the home scrums. The Taylors pack was effective in the loose, and produced some good mauls, getting over the Chiswick line with one, only for the referee to decide the ball was held up. At the same time he showed a Chiswick forward a yellow card, and within a minute the home team were level when their No.8 powered his way over the top of George Dimitriadis to touch down near the left corner. The kick was good. The visitors began to struggle against complete pack collapse in the scrums, and were hanging on at this stage.
Full back Dan Sutherland was tested with a kick, and responded well, but then decided to return the compliment and kick long. Taylors in turn took the opportunity to run the ball back, and Dimitriadis did well to floor their wing after several attempts to stop him had failed. Five minutes later Vannini got his boot to the ball when Taylors had heeled it on the Chiswick 22, and a rush defence reduced the threat. At the other end a good passage of Chiswick pressure was ended when Steer was held up short of the line. On the stroke of half-time, Taylors got their noses in front with a penalty awarded for offside.
Chiswick got their act together a bit in the second half, and with Sam Leslie-Miller his usual tower of strength in the forwards they imposed themselves more on the opposition. Seven minutes in they got a penalty, and Hallett converted to level the scores. Josh Noble then had a chance of glory when a well-judged chip from Hallett seemed to be falling straight into his hands as he surged into a hole in the defence, but the ball proceeded to bounce out of his grasp. Henry Poon came on for Adams and got stuck straight in, he and newcomer Mikhail Aloha proving a destructive duo in the loose. A plague of knock-ons struck the Chiswick team as they began to open out, and Taylors were gaining in confidence as they stayed level.
With twenty minutes gone, that changed when Hallett kicked a penalty goal from just inside the ten metre line. Sub Russ Dovey almost got Hallett in for a try with a subtle inside pass, and the home defence did well to stop Dimitriadis from scoring in the subsequent foray. Leslie-Miller then got close, as did Aloha, before quick recycling gave Noble space to run at, and sell a dummy to, the defence, before diving ostentatiously over the line. Hallett produced another good kick, and Chiswick were more than one score clear. Just as well, since Taylors came back strongly with a good try, after desperate last minute tackles by Jon Gibson and Rikki Darroch had kept them at bay. The fairly simple kick failed, however, and Chiswick had the final say however, with Hallett kicking another penalty goal.
Chiswick team :- Shattock, Dibble, Joubert, Aloha, Fatsis, Adams, Darroch, Leslie-Miller, Vannini, Hallett, Steer, Gibson, Noble, Dimitriadis, Sutherland, El Kabbi, Poon, Dovey