Match Report from Nigel Guy: Twickenham 8 Chobham 29
Chobham made the short journey up the M3 in good heart after three back to back wins and very much in contention in the leading pack at the top of the league. Hosts Twickenham, although holding the title of the 11th oldest rugby club in the world, were struggling to find a winning streak after their promotion and were languishing in the bottom half. A closer inspection of their results however showed a competitive side who were causing problems to most of their opponents. Despite having been well beaten at Fowlers Wells in September, they could not afford to be underestimated.
The Chobham team sheet showed the return of Ben Sims and changes in the back row. With both Dave Askew and Euan Buckland injured, Sam Forbes packed down at 6 with 18 year old debutant Justin Rowland at 7 with another 18 year old, Jake Dunne, coming onto the bench. The Chobham junior/senior conveyor belt continues to be very productive. A sunny December afternoon provided the backdrop although a strong end to end wind would test the players.
The early action was punctuated by Mr Gaynor’s whistle as he clearly established his policy at the breakdown and players of both sides struggled to adapt. However on 5 minutes, Twickenham got the scoreboard moving as full back Dom Brown struck a wind assisted penalty over from 40 metres as a scrum caved in with the visitors deemed the transgressors. Twickenham 3 Chobham 0. Chobham soon showed their pedigree with scrum half Ian Barnes prompting their play into the teeth of the breeze. On 10 minutes the ball was fizzed through the hands and Ben Sims burst through and his inside pass saw the fast arriving Josh Devitt take the ball and sprint over for the opening try. With James Dunne adding the extras the visitors nosed ahead. Twickenham 3 Chobham 7. Almost immediately Brown had a chance to reduce the arrears from the same spot as earlier but although he had the length, the kick was wide. However with the wind at their backs, Twickenham started to have their best spell of the half so far. Showing great ball retention, they attacked on both sides of the break down before they engineered numerical superiority on the left hand side allowing back row forward Andrew Keane to cross in the corner. No extras. Twickenham 8 Chobham 7. Chobham responded well with the impish Barnes dictating the pace of the Chobham play. He procured a Twickenham offence on their 22 and Dunne confidently drilled his kick through the teeth of the wind to bisect the posts. Twickenham 8 Chobham 10. On 30 minutes Brown had another long range attempt sail wide and it was then the visitors who finished the half strongly. A driven maul was taken 30 yards up field before been illegally taken down by Twickenham’s scrum half Ross Cowell and Mr Gaynor showed little sympathy as the yellow card was produced. Chobham then hammered away at the try line with dogged home defence unyielding and a knock on denying Aaran Mawson a score. Half time Twickenham 8 Chobham 10.
The coaching team of Ryan Gregory and Tony Paul would have been satisfied with their cohorts’ efforts in the first half. Defensively they had looked very secure and as ever dangerous in attack. With the wind now at their backs it was important to spend time in the right areas of the field to secure victory.
The opening try of the second half came early just as the coaches requested. Forbes and Ollie Smith made inroads into the home defence with a surging break before the ball was moved wide and Harry Guy took the final pass to touch down in the corner. No conversion. Twickenham 8 Chobham 15. Back came Twickenham. With the players now benefiting from Mr Gaynor’s desire to allow quick ball at the tackle area, the game opened up much to the enjoyment of the crowd and the players. Twickenham showed great ball retention as they looked to get back in the game, but the Chob defence which was found wanting last week was resolute and the hosts struggled to get over the gain line as Paul and Sims muscularly marshalled the midfield and Sonny Kuwana, Lee Evans and Adam Blemings chopped like demented lumberjacks closer the breakdown. Slowly Chob worked their way back down field and on 58 minutes from a strong scrum a neat midfield move saw Sims power through the home defence to cross the white wash. Dunne added two. Twickenham 8 Chobham 22. With 20 minutes left Jake Dunne entered the fray for Forbes with the target of the bonus point score. Things were made more difficult on 65 minutes when replacement prop Jamie Evans saw red from Mr Gaynor and Chob were now down to 14 men. However on 70 minutes the bonus point was secured. Another pinpoint throw in the lineout from Blemings was well taken before Barnes moved the ball on and in came Devitt at pace on an arcing run to score under posts for a well worked try. Dunne converted. Twickenham 8 Chobham 29. Final score.
Chob successfully navigated a tricky away fixture to come away with 5 points. This was a strong, structured performance built around an impressive set piece and, importantly from last week, excellent defence. With the ability to strike from anywhere with a lethal backline, these two areas were important foundations for the victory and with Barnes back to his best the squad can be well satisfied as they head into the Christmas recess. Chob move up to fourth place in a very congested league leader board. 2015 gets off to an absolute bang when third placed Sutton & Epsom roll into Fowlers Wells on 3 January. These two sides have had some titanic battles in recent years and this one should be no different.
Nigel Guy, Director of Rugby, Chobham RFC