Old Haberdashers 23 Chiswick 10
In a turn-up for the books, Chiswick, having lost one match, versus Old Haberdashers, having won one, resulted in a comprehensive and well-deserved victory for the home team. An increasingly raucous crowd cheered Haberdashers on after they had made a bright start, helped in no small part by a favourable wind, sun in the opponents’ eyes and a slight slope, all of which made sense of their tactic of long kicks towards the corners. Chiswick, with a number of changes, were in trouble in the scrums from the off and conceded three early penalties, all comfortably converted, and from then on the team which had started the afternoon in third place were chasing the game.
The first good maul was Chiswick’s, but ominously they then conceded a scrum, in which they were pushed back fifteen metres. The rumble was stopped illegally, and the referee awarded the first penalty, comfortably slotted from thirty metres. The next thing Haberdashers did well was to put hard tackles in on the in-form Simon Hallett all afternoon, giving him little room to set the re-organised back division going. Chiswick scrum troubles led to the next, easier penalty kick. Dan Sutherland, unusually at full back, knocked on his first catch, but was immaculate in defence from then on, with good support form Rory McLaughlin and Tom Steer on the wings. It was a difficult match for Josh Noble, back eventually from a long absence through injury, but he looked hungry for the ball and defended well. Even after the third penalty, Chiswick looked a bit lethargic, and it was no surprise when a classical home attack, each player drawing a tackler before passing, led to only the second try of the season for Haberdashers, well-converted from near the touchline.
Chiswick improved a little, and McLaughlin counter-attacked after fielding a kick, with support from Sutherland. The wing chose a great inside line, but was well-tackled just short of the home line. Another good Chiswick move down the right wing broke down in the home 22, when the forwards could make little progress against an obdurate defence. Chiswick then failed with a move from a five metre lineout, but Leslie-Miller appeared to be over seconds later from a quick tapped penalty, only for the referee to rule accidental offside. The backs then had a go, Noble successfully out-pacing the central defence, before releasing Steer to score wide out. The kick just failed, but Chiswick had a life-line at half-time.
Unfortunately for them the wind died down in the second half, and Haberdashers could keep kicking. Chiswick put the foot down, but the defence was solid, and even the introduction of Jannie Joubert and Jon Gibson, the latter surprisingly in place of Steer, did not ignite the magic spark. A couple of poor kicks gave away Chiswick possession, as they tried to conjure up some effective moves. Haberdashers finally missed a kick for goal, but continued to defend well. When given a chance to attack, the home team looked threatening, with their fly half and outside centre in particular usually making good yards.
With twenty minutes to go, it was Haberdashers who scored the crucial try after their fly half had broken through in midfield, and simple passing gave the left wing plenty of room to touch down. The inch-perfect kick bounced on the cross bar on its way over, and there was really no way back for a tired-looking Chiswick team, although Gibson and Sutherland combined well for Gibson to make the score line look better with a late try. Haberdashers had previously almost added to their score when an ambitious attempted dropped goal came back off the post.
Chiswick team:- Shattock, Dibble, Tonkin, Hood, Fatsis, Cooper, Darroch, Leslie-Miller, Dovey, Hallett, Steer, Regan, Noble, McLaughlin, Sutherland, Joubert, Gibson, Holt