Winchester 13 (5) – 25 (10) Chobham
Chobham, sponsored by Bray Wealth Management and local restaurant Rosso Mazarra, were for the second week on the road and travelled to Hampshire. Billy Davison took a very buoyant squad whose confidence is growing week on week. The coaches (sponsored by Reflex & Relax and Robbings Motors) had a number of issues with unavailability and injuries, the biggest concern was travelling with only a hooker front row replacement.
Chob welcomed Nathan Spratt back into the second row, as well a completely new bench of game changers with Ben Puttock (Sponsored by Heritage Locks), Euan Buckland (Sponsored by The Garibaldi, Knaphill) and Sam Davies (Sponsored by Chobham Wealth Management) doing the job. Credit goes to Puttock who, due to logistic issues, did not get his call up until after 9:00pm on Friday evening.
The teams were piped onto the pitch in honour of Burns, Chob kicked off and from the offset the much smaller visitors pack put the much bigger Winch pack to the dagger, the young front row looked much more experienced than their years. Leon Nells (Sponsored by Chobham Under 16s) line out throws were on target time and time again, giving Spratt and Justin Rowland an easy afternoon receiving the ball. Following an early high tackle after 5 minutes by the hosts Golding on Oli Smith, Fin Robjhn kicked just into the 22 for a lineout. Chob won it clearly and drove the maul for 20m for a Nell try to open the scoring.
The visitors continued to frustrate the host and Justin Rowlands and Jerry Rumball did a good job to negate the Winch talisman Golding. Winch didn’t have the ability to run through the Chob wall of defence and through frustration appeared to kick away territory time and time again, giving the back three of John Rumsey (Sponsored by XVSport), Josh Devitt and Liam Monaghan (Sponsored by Timberline Partnerships LLP) great pleasure at running back at the hosts.
The next 20 minutes saw a game mainly played in the middle of the pitch and resolute tackling from Chob kept the hosts out of the visitors’ half. The 40-odd travelling spectators revelled in the young Chob pack driving Winch off their own scrums, this put their scrum half under a lot of pressure that meant Robbie Kennard (Sponsored by Past President Chris Whiting) was like a jack Russell snapping away at his legs.
The penalty count seemed to higher than recent weeks and from an offside on the 22 Winch kicked for a 5m line out, a clean catch and drive set up multiple pick and go’s before the hosts hooker Juleff crossed the line, for fly half Tolan to convert and give the hosts a 7-5 lead. Chobs great line outs saw Spratt and Rowlands steal the hosts ball, a sustained period of pressure from Winch came of nothing when Smith ripped the ball in the tackle before being bundled into touch.
A cynical no armed shoulder barge by Pete McCains (Sponsored by Route One Solutions) on the hosts fly half Tolan, on the half way line, saw him spend 5 minutes in the sin bin after a yellow card. The challenge then came for the Chob pack as the move around at the scrum as hooker Charlie Head went to loose head and second row Nell to hooker, Head was then under huge pressure from Winch tight head Turner. While attacking the visitors’ line the hosts lost their man advantage with a high tackle on Smith by lock Wandless, unfortunately the referee identified his partner Rayner who trudged off to the sin bin. Chob went through the gears heading towards half time and saw the backs being used more, Tommy Reed and Rumsey had Winch on the back foot – following a dozen phases Devitt scored in the right corner on the half time, going into the break with a 10-7 led. Sadly, Devitt was injured, but Davies came on for the second half.
The second half carried on with a similar cadent as the first, Chobs strong defence throttled any attack the hosts threw at them. Sadly, with the temporary front row, the visitors gave another penalty and Tolan from the penalty was able to draw the hosts level. McCain was now back on the pitch following his sin bin, straight into the foray following multiple pick and goes on the Winch line McCain dropped over the line to open his score tally for the season and with Rumseys conversion the visitors went 7 points in the lead.
The teams were well matched, and Winch’s stars of Tolan and Hiscock made little impression against the visitors’ resolute defence. With McCain back on the pitch the young Chob pack totally dominated the set piece yet again. Smith’s line breaks featured again and brought as much cheer as the crunching tackling of Williams and Reed.
After turning over a scrum the hosts Winch gave Chob an easy pen for holding Kennard back, now in the Winch half the visitors played with openness and confidence and earned penalty after penalty. Buckland was now on for Head (with now at hooker) and gave some fresh legs to attack the hosts line. A quarter of the game was played between the 22s, showing how little difference between the teams and it was Chobs dominance of the set piece the difference in the game.
The Winch half backs, as the game went on, appeared to have run out of ideas and phases were taking them backwards. From an offside by Spratt on the Chob 22 in the middle of the pitch Tolan brought the hosts within 4 points of the visitors with a quarter of an hour to go. From the kick off Chob defended 5 minutes of sustained attack with Winch playing between their 10m and the half. The stalemate was broken when Rumsey intercepted a pass from Winch’s Forster to run over half the pitch to score and give the visitors a 22-13 lead.
From the kick off the hosts lost scrum half Mahwood when he took Rowlands out in the air, from this point Chob were totally in control and closed the game off. With a minute to go the Winch replacement Hill went over the top for a penalty to allow Rumsey to slot the final score of the game, finishing 25-13 to the visitors.
Winchester were before the turn around in the season the best team Chobham have played and even though the visitors were deserved winners, the hosts have been the toughest opposition since Christmas. Chobham have finally moved out of the relegation places.
Next week Chobham host Tottonians for what will be a celebratory game as Josh Devitt is destined to play his 100th game for the First XV and Liam Monaghan his 200th game, the club will also be hosting a Bottomless Prosecco charity fundraiser for the clubs Mixed Ability side, the Surrey Chargers, to support them as they will be travelling to Cork, Eire to play in the World Mixed Ability World Cup later in the year.
After the game coach Robbie Kennard said “A really good all-round performance from the lads today. We played with some real maturity and the try we scored before half-time had everything. What was most impressive was our defensive display led by skipper Phil Williams. Barring the single Winchester try, we closed them down, made our tackles and nullified any threats.
The most exciting thing about this group is how much more there is to come. Another big week ahead and a couple of the old timers in Monaghan and Devitt have some big milestones next week!”
1st XV Manager Harry Norman-Walker said “I am on cloud nine after this week’s performance, from 1 to 18 the boys took the game to Winchester and our defence was impenetrable. We had a few selection issues but were able to ride that wave and dominate the 80 minutes. The right team won on the day and Winchester were shown wanting for ideas by the end of the game.
I was disappointed that for the first time since Christmas silly unforced errors and indiscipline reappeared into our game – they would not have got on the scoreboard if we had played as we have recently.
Charlie Head had a stellar performance a stand prop and probably learnt a hell of a lot about the front row in those 4 scrums, as well as Hargan for another 80-minute performance.
Personally, I have to thank the travelling crowd of over 40, touch judge James Zeal, Mike Vandenburg for videoing the game; as well as he and Chairman Mark Fisher for enduring the bagpipes at the Burns Lunch.
We have got out of the relegation zone, but are taking one game at a time, a win next week could see us jump Totts and take us into the top half of the league. It will be a great day with Liam Monaghan and Josh Devitt celebrating 200 and 100 First XV appearances respectively.”
Team: Pete McCain; Charlie Head; Angus Hargan; Leon Nell; Nathan Spratt; Jerry Rumball; Justin Rowland; Oli Smith; Robbie Kennard; Fin Robjohn; Josh Devitt; Phil Williams (c); Tommy Reed; Liam Monaghan; John Rumsey.
Game Changers: Ben Puttock; Euan Buckland; Sam Davies.