Nineteenth Consecutive Win Earns Chiswick's Promotion
Rugby result : Chiswick 40 Hitchin 12
This victory, the nineteenth in a row, earned Chiswick promotion, and barring a statistical freak, the champions’ garland.
As is their present wont, the home team gave the opposition a head start, more a product of a ferocious onslaught by the Hitchin fifteen, buoyed up by some good recent results, which have got them up to third in the league, than lethargy in the home ranks. Reaching the home 22 with an excellent grubber kick, another subtle kick forced Chiswick captain Marc Jones to kick for touch from his in-goal area, having picked up the ball just outside the goal line. Hitchin took the ball at the front of the lineout, and mauled over the line for the first try, well converted.
A nervy looking Chiswick continued to be pressurised, and another try was on the cards, Hitchin having four backs facing Jones as they opened out across field just outside the home 22. Jones did brilliantly to hurtle in and swamp the man with the ball, as the Chiswick defence struggled to re-organise, and the danger was averted. Slowly, the home team began to steady themselves, although they continued to lose some of their own lineouts, with the Hitchin No.4 doing well to get in front of Sam Hood.
An excellent long kick by Keith Luckman was then rewarded with the bonus of a late tackle, and Chiswick were soon in the opposition 22. A good take by Hood at the lineout was followed by Hansie Bez and Alistair Pickering leading surges for the line, with Lewis Hammond and Jones also involved. With a Hitchin player obstructing the ball, Chiswick worked the blind-side, and suddenly there was the sight of prop Shane Donaldson zipping towards the corner flag, his feet a regulation two inches inside the touch line. A mighty cheer arose as the greying warrior touched down, and the referee, with a twinkle in his aging eyes, smartly raised his hand in acknowledgment. Luckman couldn’t quite get the conversion the try deserved; his first miss after nine successful conversions on the trot in the last match.
Aran Delaney, having an impressive game, dealt well with the kick-off, and Chiswick were looking much more solid. Graham Robbings at open-side flanker was putting in his usual heavy quota of tackles, and within minutes Luckman slotted a penalty kick, and Chiswick were in front. Crucially, after Chiswick had been reduced to fourteen players for an obstruction offence, Hood beat the Hitchin jumper to the resultant throw-in in the home 22. A penalty for crossing allowed Pickering to make a trademark assault on the Hitchin pack. The ball was fed out to Simon Slattery on the left wing, who, with a number of opposition players in his face, produced a wonderful kick towards the corner flag. He was immediately and uncomfortably up-ended, but the ball did the decent thing, bouncing out of the defender’s grasp for the pursuing Chiswick scrum half, Nico Fryer to grab. He produced a balletic moment, swivelling backwards in mid air to avoid touch and grounding the ball just over the line. The kick was just wide.
The second half was distinctly anti-climactic. Ben Cheston was prominent with a great smother tackle, whilst his partner John Gibson was as irrepressible as always, being in on every mid-field battle, where Hitchin were really giving it a go. At crucial moments, Chiswick were nicking the ball off the ground, thereby defusing difficult situations in their own 22. Hitchin then made a couple of critical mistakes. First they knocked on in the lineout, and Luckman hoofed the ball up field, then they knocked on in mid-field, and Fryer put Cheston away for a sprint to the line. Luckman converted, and the heat was off. Or so we thought. Restored to fifteen players, Chiswick looked confident, but a blistering run by the Hitchin outside centre, from his own half led to a good try in the corner by their left wing. The kick failed, and from then on it was one-way traffic.
Cheston squashed the cheeky centre at the next Hitchin move, and the next Chiswick attack produced the sort of try that’s made it a pleasure to watch the team this season. Luckman touched down after all the backs, bar one, together with hooker Jan Joubert and the indefatigable Delaney had been involved in a series of moves. Gibson was close to scoring in the corner, but lost the ball in the final tackle. Hitchin continued their suicidal progress, with a yellow card and a simple penalty kick for Luckman. Slattery, Bez, Fryer, and Robbings were involved in a counter-attack, before Pickering joined in to give the hungry Jones a pass with only one man to beat. The conversion failed, but another try soon followed. With Chiswick retaining possession after a couple of players had been brought down in the tackle, Luckman found Jones on his shoulder, and the captain made mincemeat of the Hitchin defence, leaving futilely grasping hands in his wake. Luckman had no problem with the kick.
The quarter final E.D.F Vase match at Southmead ( Bristol ) next week will test this team, but the first objective of the season has been met in great style. Congratulations to all.
Chiswick team :- Donaldson ( Matulick ), Joubert, Campbell ( Davies ), Hood, Delaney, Pickering, Robbings, Bezuidenhout, Fryer, Luckman, Slattery ( Milak ), Gibson, Cheston, Jones, Hammond