Chiswick ended up victors against a defensively sound Hempstead side in a match that was by no means a classic. Both sides attempted to play in very wet conditions, but errors were frequent for both sides in a match that was 3-0 at the half. Chiswick scored three tries in the second half, to Hempstead’s one, and ended up 20-8 victors. Another match were Chiswick won but will be disappointed to not claim maximum points.
The rain started to fall, just as kick-off approached, and Chiswick knew they were going to have to put in a dogged performance in typical wintery conditions against a Hemel Hempstead side who had seem dead and buried when the sides met earlier in the season to fight back to within seven by the final whistle.
Both sides showed a willingness to play the ball early on, with poor weather and stalwart defence from Hemel contributing to a few Chiswick handling errors. Hemel’s 10 had a handy boot, and when he got the ball was effective at turning Chiswick kicking to deep, but the Chiswick back three were alert to this, and were equal in their kick return. The first half was a tight affair, a few scraps in the ruck leading to the referee having a word with both captain’s. Chiswick got points on the board first, an easy penalty in front of the posts, but these were the only points in the first half.
After giving away an early penalty in the second half, Hemel levelling things up 3-3, Chiswick rose in to the ascendancy with Matt Cooper, Ben Kelly and Jon Joyce being particularly effective in the carry – a blast from the past with all three having played together many years ago for Rosslyn Park. Chiswick were awarded a penalty 22m out, almost directly infront of the posts, but a last minute gust of wind dislodged the ball from Hallett’s tee as he strode to connect, and he grubbered it in to gleeful Hemel hands. Hemel almost immediately infringed again and with Sutherland opting to kick for the corner, it was a drive and maul which brought the first try of the match, from the resultant lineout. With several backs joining the shove, it was hard to tell who dotted the ball over the line, but i’m reliably informed that James Dibble added to his personal tally to the season. Hallett missed with the kick.
Moments later, Chiswick scored in the same corner, again from a maul. This time, Dovey broke free down the blind side, drew his man and gifted Dan Sutherland an easy 5 points in the corner. The second try saw momentum shift completely in Chiswick’s favour, with Allen-Clarke making some big hits up the middle with the ball, defence being resolute across the park and a particularly effective forward crash ball game. Chiswick scored their third try again off a lineout (or it may have been a scrum), with Dovey finding Hallett at 10 – who had moved in one with Burrows being brought on for Hitchcock moments earlier – who hit Burrows on the switch crash. The switch had been ineffective all game, but with both packs tied in to the set play, Burrows found more space, handed off the covering full-back and scored in the right corner. Hallett made the conversion from out wide.
With the game in the dying minutes, Chiswick pushed for the fourth bonus point try, but a few opportunities went a miss, and it was Hemel who scored the last points of the match. It could have been more, with their 10 running through a broken Chiswick line but his offload was knocked on over the line.
All in all, Chiswick will be happy with the win in what was typical January conditions. A luck break here or there may have seen them head in to the changing room with maximum points, but that is a familiar story this season, with 6 matches finishing 1 try short of the bonus point. Results elsewhere meant Chiswick moved up to 5th in the table.
Team: Barkham, Dibble, Filbey, Copperwheat, Allen-Clarke, Joyce, Kelly, Cooper; Dovey, Hitchcock, Steer, Hallett, Harper, Sutherland (c), Purkiss; Marko C, Hood, Burrows
T: Dibble, Sutherland, Burrows