Chiswick struggled to a 24-3 win over bottom of the table Tabard, but unlike so many similar games, handling errors and other mistakes did not cost them a bonus point. Tries from Olley, Leslie-Miller and Lowe (2) securing maximum points from the outing.
HAC continued their march towards being crowned NW2 Champions, and Chiswick will be eager to emulate their form next year, when exciting developments at the Club should help the desire to play a faster and wider game.
Supporters hoping for a big score against beleaguered Tabard went away disappointed, but whilst Chiswick were anything but efficient, credit must go to Tabard who defended tenaciously, with very little ball to play with. Their pack was killed in the scrums, crucified in the mauls and eventually dismissed ignominiously in the lineouts, but every player tackled hard, and every loose ball was chased eagerly.
The home backs, with three changes from the last match, unsurprisingly took a while to settle down, although the new combination of Max Burrows and Jon Olley in the centre looked very promising. Tabard began well, with an excellent kick-off, forcing a Chiswick knock-on and a reasonable first couple of lineouts. The first scrum was a different kettle of fish, with the Chiswick pack pushing them off the ball and setting up a multi-phase attack. This ended abruptly with a poor, hopeful kick going dead – the first of a number of poor decisions by the home backs.
With the Chiswick forwards, led by the hard-working second row pair, Marc Copperwheat and Jon Joyce, beginning to enjoy themselves, a score looked imminent, but in fact it took twenty minutes before Chiswick opened their account. A penalty kick to touch, an acrobatic arched back catch by Sam Leslie-Miller, and a powerful maul allowed the home No.8 to touch down near the right corner. Simon Hallett’s kick unluckily came back from the inside of the far post. A minute later Chiswick gave three points back when on their second attempt to run the ball out of their 22 ( a kick seemed called for ), they conceded a penalty in front of the posts.
Chiswick stepped up their game now, and were soon in position to score another push-over try. Unfortunately the referee took exception to something that happened during the maul, and a yellow card followed – more frustration for the home team, whose play was untidy at times, with little structure apparent. Chiswick survived the next ten minutes comfortably enough though, and even added five points after a scrum eight metres from the line led to Luca Vannini exploiting the narrow side well for Gabs Lowe to score.
A powerful break by one of a couple of very useful Tabard players tested the home defence, with Tom Steer having to race back flat out, and the cover just getting back in time, and with Burrows having to go off injured, Chiswick had to take a breather at the back whilst Ray Brooks got acquainted with his neighbours. Tabard’s fly half missed a good opportunity to reduce the gap just before half time, pushing a penalty kick just wide of the posts.
Ten minutes into a scrappy second half, Chiswick scored a nerve-settling third try, Copperwheat slipping the ball neatly backwards to Lowe after an extended home attack. Third time lucky for Hallett, who bisected the posts from near the right touch-line. The last half hour was punctuated with abortive home sorties down the left touch-line, ending with dropped balls, hopeful kicks or feet in touch. Tabard had not given up, and a perfect counter-attacking kick downfield found Chiswick hooker James Filbey, isolated at the back, having to force weary legs into a gallop to rescue the ball feet from the home line. The cavalry arrived in the nick of time, and Chiswick finally picked up the expected bonus point when Olley picked his way carefully through a mass of players to score under the posts after Tom Gadsby and Jon Joyce had been held up just short.
Author: D Lovell
T: Leslie-Miller, Olley, Lowe (2)
C: Hallett (2)
Team: Barkham, Filbey, Allen-Clarke, Copperwheat (c), Joyce, Gadsby, Biss, Leslie-Miller, Vannini Hallett, Steer, Burrows, Olley, Purkiss, Lowe; Chraplwyrz, Brooks, Stratford