Norwich 17 – Chiswick 35
Having previously been defeated in the semi-finals of the Intermediate Cup by a team they should have beaten, Chiswick were fired up for this match. Unfortunately it took a while for the fifteen players available for this match to get organised, and the wily home pack were in charge early on. After some early sparring, in which No.12 Dan Godfrey stood out in defence, the Chiswick No.8, Matt Cooper, found himself behind a retreating pack near the Chiswick line. His pass back to Luca Vannini was a little short, and the home No.7, Dave Micklethwaite, pounced on the ball and dived over the line. Seven points down, and five minutes played.
The combination of a sticky pitch and a pointed ball caused Simon Hallett problems at this and subsequent kick-offs, and with each team closing rapidly on any ball carrier, the play was a bit scrappy. Chiswick’s first real attack gave them hope, James Dibble finding Jon Joyce with his throw, and the pack mauling to within spitting distance of the home line before losing control. Dibble’s next throw was taken well by Mike Fatsis, later to be voted Chiswick man of the match, and whose involvement was total, as was that of new prop Tom Dean. Chiswick’s forwards increased the pressure as Norwich showed some lack of confidence in running the ball, and after two five metre lineouts had failed to produce a try, full back Dave Hill came into the line and found a magic corridor to the goal-line, every defender standing off and watching. Hallett converted, and it was back to square one after twenty minutes.
Norwich’s second attempt at an interception try was successful as Chiswick impatiently tried to run the ball from their own half, and Neil Dunleavy timed his run perfectly. Against the run of play, they then went further ahead when their fly half kicked the ball in a delicate arc from just outside the Chiswick 22, landing it in the large in-goal area and just within the reach of the flying home left wing, Richard Rose. The try was not converted, but with Rowan Tonkin and Russ Dovey coming on in a tactical substitution, there was a distinct improvement in the Chiswick scrummaging, and Hallett pulled a psychologically important three points back before the interval when the Norwich pack was penalised.
Another psychological point was scored early in the second half when Chiswick achieved a turnover by holding a player up and stopping forward movement. With better ball from the scrums, their back division began to show, and Norwich had to produce a couple of panicky kicks for touch. Chiswick were now regularly using the maul as an attacking option, which really paid off when Norwich had a forward yellow-carded for pulling a couple down. Chiswick gave Norwich no respite in the forwards from then on, but after two abortive efforts at pushovers, Hallett took the three points on offer to reduce the gap to four points.
Norwich began to crumble under the pressure. Dibble, catching the kickoff, charged back with head down, and a probing kick nearly allowed new wing Andy Ibberson to get away. Dave Hill attempted to elude the whole of the home team with an ambitious run from near the Chiswick goal-line and it seemed a mistake when Josh Noble continued the move with a long kick. A good position was achieved, however, and an accurate Dibble throw led to Rikki Darroch touching down under a surging pile of Chiswick forwards. Hallett pushed his kick wide, but Chiswick had the bit between their teeth now, and Hallett slotted a beauty from thirty five metres as Norwich tried to stem the flow.
Another kick for Ibberson failed, but the next long Chiswick kick was knocked on and an interesting ploy involving Godfrey and Ibberson, the latter chipping over the last defender, allowed Noble to show his electric pace, and touch down close to the posts. Hallett had no trouble with this one, and the match was almost over. There was still time for Tom Steer to show that he was no slouch either, when finally one of a number of excursions down the left wing set him free to scream past and round the defence. Hallett gained the last two points, and the whole of the Chiswick squad could feel well satisfied with their performance.
Chiswick team :- Dean, Dibble, Chraplywyj, Joyce, Fatsis, Adams, Darroch, Cooper, Vannini, Hallett, Steer, Godfrey, Noble, Ibberson, Hill, Nichols, Tonkin, Dovey, Lowe