Chiswick 23 – Tabard 5
Crunch time is with us. Chiswick needed only to win this match against mid-table Tabard to get to a play-off against London 2 North East’s second team Diss for the third promotion spot to London 1 North. With the redoubtable Tabard forwards piling on the pressure around the middle of the game, there were moments of doubt for the home side, but a brilliant fourth try brought back the Chiswick smiles.
From the beginning, with Chiswick playing into the wind, the forwards were engaged in an epic struggle, with Tabard shading the scrums, and there were few opportunities for either back division to shine with both sides blanketing the mid-field with tacklers. Rowan Tonkin in a rare appearance as hooker had problems with his throw-ins early on, but when a system was evolved the home backs began to see more of the ball. Nevertheless it was from an early lineout, gained after Tabard had been penalised, a common occurrence throughout the match, that the home team opened the scoring. It was the outstanding Chiswick player Simon Hallett who tidied up behind a five metre lineout, saw a gap in the forwards and leapt through to score. His kick came back off the post.
Another lineout led to the next home try, after an acrobatic leap by Matt Pickering had allowed his finger tips to deflect the ball back to Mike Fatsis. Fatsis charged straight for the posts, and with Pickering’s support, Chiswick got close to the line. Luca Vannini was on the spot to sell numerous dummies as he took a taxi-driver’s route to the in-goal area. The kick failed.
Riki Darroch made a good break, but it was all a bit frantic, and the ball was knocked on. A long Hallett kick soon followed, and produced dividends when the Tabard defence failed to clear the ball from their 22. Fatsis gained possession, and again made a bee-line for the posts. Hallett and Pickering were then involved before Joe Grindle was given the ball with one defender in front of him. For once he took the easy option and raced outside his opponent to touch down in the right corner, whence no conversion was possible.
The second twenty minutes of the half were shaded by Tabard, who, aided by the wind, exerted a lot of pressure. Dan Godfrey and Jon Gibson produced several vital tackles as the visitors tried to use their quick no.12 to break the home line. Every Tabard penalty kick was into the right corner, and with a couple of minutes to go a multi-phase move ended with their No.7 touching down. The kick was pushed right. Tabard had the bit between the teeth now, and with Chiswick picking up a yellow card for a second tackling infringement, the home team were lucky to reach half-time with no further score.
The Chiswick fourteen defended well, with Gibson coming into the scrums, and the failure of Tabard to score in this period was critical. With Chiswick restored to full man-power, a couple of hopeful long kicks by Tabard gave Dan Sutherland a chance to show his powerful counter-attacking skills, supported ably by Grindle. With Chiswick subs Jan Joubert and Mikhail Ahola on, and fifteen minutes to play, the game was still open, until another Tabard kick gave Sutherland the chance to put Grindle away in space on the left. He streaked through the opposition and up to the last defender before putting Sutherland away to score in the corner.
Hallett could not slot this one, but did convert a late penalty as the home team and their supporters finally relaxed a little.
Chiswick team:- Dean, Tonkin, Chraplywyj, Pickering, Joyce, Fatsis, Darroch, Leslie-Miller, Vannini, Hallett, Sutherland, Gibson, Godfrey, Steer, Grindle; Joubert, Ahola, Lowe