A wet, slippery ball turned this game into a bit of a lottery, as both teams found it hard to put together a number of phases of possession. Chiswick had an edge with their superior mauling, but if Sam Leslie-Miller had not been at his imperious best, they would have had problems at the scrums, with both packs sliding back when they failed to get the first shove in.
Loose balls abounded, but even if picked up well they tended to shoot forward out of the hands. Matt Cooper managed it successfully, however, at an early lineout, after the Hemel catcher had dropped the ball. After early Chiswick pressure, Hemel had a good spell and won a penalty which looked an easy three points, but the kick was just wide. Hemel were very fast into the tackles, and with few metres gained by their forwards, long kicks looked an attacking possibility for Chiswick, and Tom Steer’s first effort was rewarded with a knock-on near the visitors’ 22. Chiswick won the scrum, but then lost the ball. Another attack, started by Jon Olley, took the ball to the Hemel goal-line, but brave defending kept the home team out. The pressure finally told in the 23rd minute when a good Chiswick throw was taken by Rich Bryan, who was propelled towards the line by his team-mates, with the touch-down being achieved by Simon Allen-Clarke. Oliver Snook got the conversion from wide out.
Chiswick were lucky to stay ahead, as Hemel came back strongly with good quick passing after Chiswick had dropped the ball. Fortunately for the home team, Hemel in turn dropped the ball well into the home 22. Tom Gadsby failed with an attempted interception – if he had succeeded the way to the line was clear. Soon after, Matt Newman had to retire injured, and was replaced by Ben Barkham. Leslie-Miller made a mighty break down the left side, looked outside and saw Joe Grindle at pace. What would have been the best try of the day failed to materialise when the pass went astray, sadly. The full back was in action again just before half-time, when a clever Hemel cross kick was caught on the volley by Hemel’s useful No.11 who charged towards the lone defender. Grindle did well to force him infield, and he was caught by the pursuing horde.
The second half was more of the same, with solid tackling and little room for anyone to make a break. Chiswick were soon further ahead, winning a lineout ball on the right and spreading the ball rapidly to the left until there was a little space for Cooper to bulldoze his way over the line. Snook’s kick was good. Hemel had a good chance to score from a five metre lineout, but Chiswick fingers got there first and deflected the ball to the home scrum half, Harry Cox, making his debut for Chiswick. Minutes later Cox put in a beautiful high clearance kick which was knocked on by Hemel.
Rich Small was the next to try a long kick, and his was a beauty too, although this time Hemel made a few metres on the counter. Snook needed to reinforce his kicker status, and just failed to clear the bar with a drop-kick, from wide out near the halfway line, which bisected the posts. Chris Hitchcock replaced George Bibby to join Ryno Lopes who had come on for Jon Olley. Some excellent but painful play by Small produced a loose ball hoofed by Snook towards the left corner. The Chiswick fly half won the ensuing race, and then slotted an excellent kick.
The final act saw Hemel get some reward for all their effort when their wing got just ahead of two home players chasing his kick to touch down on the line. The try deserved a better kick than the fifteen (?) metre wide one that followed.
Chiswick 21 Hemel Hempstead 5
T: Allen-Clarke, Cooper, Snook
C: Snook (3)
Chiswick team : Cooper, Dibble, Newman, Bryan, Allen-Clarke, Gadsby, Olley, Leslie-Miller, Cox, Snook, Small, Bibby, Peach, Steer, Grindle; Barkham, Lopes, Hitchcock
Author: D Lovell