Match Report from Nigel Guy, Director of Rugby : Sidcup 12 – Chobham 14
After a week off Chobham returned to action with a crucial promotion battle at 3rd placed Sidcup. With league leaders Wimbledon also hosting 4th placed S&E, it was going to be an interesting afternoon in any event with all sorts of league placing permutations possible. Confidence though in the Fowlers Wells camp was high as Ryan Gregory and Tony Paul’s men had seen off a very determined Brighton team two weeks ago to increase their winning run to twelve and the club had also been boosted by the news that this talented coaching team had committed to the club for a further two seasons.
Despite Chob winning well against Sidcup at home in November, the squad travelled round the M25 knowing that they were in for a very stern test as the Kentish men were on their own 8 match winning run having seen off S&E in the process. The Chob line up showed a number of enforced changes. Unavailable were Euan Buckland and Ian Barnes but Ollie Smith and Ben Sims returned to the starting line-up and another of the Chobham junior production line in 19 year old George Matthews came into the squad for his second appearance. For the umpteenth time this season a strong wind blew down the pitch although the players benefited from a firm playing surface.
Chob started brightly with Sims looking lively and making a neat break on half way before possession was lost in contact. Play then became restricted in midfield as the two teams sparred at each other like heavy weight boxers looking for an opening. With the wind at their backs, Chob looked to gain territory but as the half wore on, the hosts came more into the game and gained yardage with their runners getting over the gain line. Sensing that they were getting the edge seemed to inspire Sidcup and their all round play moved up a notch and they turned the screw on Chob who were now playing mainly in their own half. With the squeeze coming on in the set piece, penalties started to flow Sidcup’s way and on 15 minutes a scrum offence yielded an opportunity on 22 metres for full back James Hardy to open his team’s account. Kicking into the wind, the kick sailed well wide and the score remained at 0-0.
On 18 minutes Sidcup found themselves a man down as wing Dan Evans tackled Mikey Macdonald above the horizontal and referee Mr Matthews reached into his pocket for yellow. Despite a numerical deficiency the home team increased their grip on the match with a series of excellent set piece initiatives which bought penalties and territory although Hardy was finding it tricky to hit the target in the wind. Eventually the pressure told as on 30 minutes Chobham’s Sonny Kuwana tested Mr Matthews’ patience too much and he had a 10 minute sit down and the hosts used this physical and numerical supremacy to push the 5 metre scrum towards the try line where skipper Jon West touched down for the score. No conversion. Sidcup 5 Chobham 0. The weather then helped the hosts as a wind assisted raking kick from Alex Seers bounced the wrong way to run dead giving Sidcup a scrum just outside the Chob 22. With a secure platform, West picked up before feeding scrum half James Munton and wing James Poland took his pass on an excellent line to score a very well worked try. With Hardy adding the extras the score line read Sidcup 12 Chobham 0 and the visitors were looking down a very large hole. On 38 minutes Seers had the opportunity get Chob on the board and he duly obliged with a penalty from half way. Half Time Sidcup 12 Chobham 3.
The Chobham changing room was far from happy. Coaches Gregory and Paul demanded far greater intensity and physicality from the squad and now that they were playing into the wind a focus on retaining the ball.
The half started well as Dom Sammut carried deep into the Sidcup half. On 45 minutes Seers was given another opportunity to reduce the deficit which he duly did. Sidcup 12 Chobham 6. Confidence was now starting to flow through the Surrey men’s play with Gregory leading the charge. Will o’the wisp, Macdonald then went on one of his trademark weaving runs which turned the Sidcup defence and once gain Seers making light of the strong facing wind bisected the uprights from the resulting penalty. Sidcup 12 Chobham 9. Surprisingly, just as Chobham did in the first half Sidcup were now struggling to play with the wind and Chob sensed an opportunity as play moved more into the host’s half. On 60 minutes, Chob took the lead. Wing Liam Monaghan kicked through and great follow up work trapped the Sidcup retriever to win the scrum turnover. With the Chob set piece now rock solid, number 8 Smith was able to find his way over from 15 metres. Seers’ conversion was wide. Sidcup 12 Chobham 14.
On 70 metres Seers had an opportunity to increase the lead following a Josh Devitt kick chase but the kick drifted wide into the wind. With a 2 point lead the crowd sensed the result could go either way and with the last kick of the match Hardy had chance to nick it for the hosts but his wind assisted effort from 45 metres was tantalisingly just wide. Full time; Sidcup 12 Chobham 14.
This was another well earnt win for Chob who turned round a disappointing first half with a high quality second half display against very strong opposition. Surprisingly both sides looked more comfortable playing into the wind and in tight matches at the top of the table, the side which takes more of its chances is likely to come out on top as Chob proved. With the 13th win on the bounce, Chob remain in second place although with Wimbledon losing to S&E the gap has now narrowed to 2 points. This promotion contest looks like it could go all the way to the wire on April 18th.
Nigel Guy, Director of Rugby, Chobham RFC