Feisty opponents Hemel Hempstead gave the in-form Chiswick 15 a bit of a going-over in this match, with a lot of big hits stopping players in their tracks. When given a bit of space, however, the slick handling of the visitors compared favourably with some loose passing by the host team, although both teams made too many mistakes. Hemel started brightly, a sustained move finding their No.12 in space, and heading for the posts having just brushed past Sam Leslie-Miller’s tackle. It required Tom Steer to follow him and eventually grab him from behind to stop the move. In reply, from a Chiswick scrum the ball went swiftly via Tom Harper and Ryno Lopes to James Bunbury, who sped down the right wing before being tap-tackled on the home 22. Hemel were caught offside and Oliver Snook put the ball into touch for a five metre lineout. Chiswick won the lineout and mauled rapidly over the line, but the ball was held up. Leslie-Miller broke from the back of the ensuing scrum, however, and scored round the blind side. Snook’s kick, against a diagonal wind, was not quite good enough.
Rich Bryan did well to catch the low and fast kick-off; he then strolled up the field past a few would-be tacklers before going to ground and letting others get involved. Not long after, Snook received his first high tackle and put the penalty kick into touch. Nothing came from the resulting lineout, and it was Gabs Lowe who instigated the next Chiswick score, the full back taking a difficult high ball and finding the ever-eager Harper in space. Harper had Adam Churton sprinting up outside him and the wing dived into the right corner for the second try. Snook’s kick just missed to the right this time.
Chiswick were nearly caught out when a raised linesman’s flag was over-ruled by the referee, thus allowing the rotund home No.8 to get up a head of steam as the visitors hesitated. Luckily the steam ran out quickly. The play now became a bit scrappy, the only incident of note being Tom Gadsby rudely knocking Marko Chraplewczyk out of the way just as he was about to catch a 22 dropout kick. If he ever plays 398 games for the club, as Chraplewczyk had before the kickoff, he may feel entitled to claim senior citizen’s rights in these circumstances. Chiswick’s attacks down the right wing always looked dangerous, and Churton got very close to scoring in the corner again. Around the half hour mark Hemel had a good period, with their half backs combining well, the fly half slipping some quick inside passes which really tested Chiswick’s defence. It was the scrum half, however, who somehow escaped from a crowd of players around a loose ball just outside the Chiswick 22 to zip to the line for a try which was duly converted. Hemel then wasted two good chances to go ahead, losing their own five metre lineout and then knocking on, with the goal line beckoning, after charging down a clearance kick.
Taking advantage of the wind in the second half, Chiswick pinned Hemel back, and soon added three points with a penalty. Gaining in confidence the backs then repeated an inside pass once too often, and Hemel’s No. 8 intercepted. He was caught, but No.15 was in support, and too quick for Tom Gadsby, the first Chiswick player to get back in defence. Chiswick sub Max Burrows, who had just come on, could only save two points by driving him into the corner. Minutes later Chiswick responded after Bunbury did very well to take a very low pass from Snook and shoot into the home 22. The ball was recycled well and Harper sent Bunbury away again, to swerve in and then out before touching down. The kick failed, but Snook soon slotted a penalty to compensate, after being high-tackled again.
It was the ubiquitous hard man Lopes who sent sub Simon Allen-Clarke off on a thirty metre surge to the goal-line for the bonus point try, leaving Snook with his first easy kick of the match. Hemel tried hard to come back, but met determined Chiswick defence, with Mark Copperwheat and Allen-Clarke to the fore. Hemel then managed to lose a five metre scrum against the head. There was lots of endeavour but no further score, although Burrows thought perhaps he was entitled to one, as no-one claimed a loose ball which had apparently been dropped out of the home 22 which he picked up and touched down after strolling over the goal line.
Chiswick 28 Hemel Hempstead 12
T: Leslie-Miller, Churton, Bunbury, Allen-Clarke
P: Snook (2)
Chiswick team: Chraplewczyk, Dibble, Barkham, Bryan, Copperwheat, Gadsby, Lopes, Leslie-Miller, Cox, Snook, Churton, Harper, Bunbury, Steer, Lowe; Randall, Allen-Clarke, Burrows
Author: D Lovell