Chiswick 36 – St Albans 24
For most of this match the talented Chiswick back division was in charge, absorbing another change, this time caused by fatherhood, Jon Gibson now being a Dad, and always dangerous when given half a chance to attack. The forwards played their part as well, with Marco Chraplewczyk enjoying life as Numero Uno, and Phil Gray rocketing all over the field at No.6. The welcome return of Jon Joyce meant greater yardage gained in the loose. The one fly in the ointment was the Saints’ refusal to sing to the tune, and their stubborn persistence eventually exposed a slight weakness in the home teams’ performance – the tackles were not strong enough.
The first try came after five minutes, Dan Sutherland scoring in the corner despite several poor passes in the move. Simon Hallett, playing his 100th game for the first team, just missed the conversion, but his opportunistic charge down and catch produced another try within a couple of minutes, as he touched down just left of the posts and then slotted the kick. At this stage a large score seemed inevitable, but Josh Noble was accelerating too fast to take what could have been a scoring pass, and then Tom Steer repeated the error. The Saints began to get more into the game, with a multi-phase short-passing game, and a rush defence, and after fifteen minutes they gained a penalty, only to miss a fairly simple kick at goal.
After thirty minutes, sustained Saints’ pressure led to them having a five metre scrum. Chiswick regained possession by wheeling the scrum, but then lost their own scrum. The Saints kept possession for a number of phases before their fly half forced his way over for a good try, which he then converted. Chiswick came back strongly, only for Leslie-Miller inexplicably to drop the ball with the line at his mercy. George Dimitriadis suddenly came into the game with a dazzling run through the centre of the Saints’ defence, but the final pass out found the defence still in place, and the move fizzled out. Gray then slipped, after a wrong-footing run, when very close to the goal-line. Joyce was heavily involved in a move leading to Noble bisecting the Saints’ centres and going over wide out for an unconverted try. Deep into injury time, Tom Steer fielded a kick at pace and started a counter-attacking move ending with new lock Paul Wilson selling dummies and pirouetting down the left touchline before powering his way over to gain the bonus point. Hallett had practiced this kick and slotted a beauty.
Starting the second half in style, Chiswick kept probing the Saints’ defence until Steer found a way through to the left corner. The same kick again, but failure this time. The Saints’ fly half was a strong runner, and the unfortunate Dimitriadis got injured tackling him, allowing Gabs Lowe back after a long absence. Shortly afterwards, the Saints powered over for a good, converted, try. Chiswick came back strongly, but good defence forced some home errors as Chiswick tried to chase the game. Leslie-Miller did well to get the ball away from a Chiswick scrum in undignified retreat, and with Luca Vannini orchestrating the play, Wilson got over for his second try, Hallett adding the points in style.
The game was changing, however, as the Saints piled on the pressure, and the last half hour belonged to them as Chiswick eased up. They scored two good tries to gain a bonus point, and some satisfaction from a solid performance.
Chiswick team :- Chraplewczyk, Dibble, Joubert, Joyce, Wilson, Gray, Darroch, Leslie-Miller, Vannini, Hallett, Steer, Godfrey, Noble, Dimitriadis, Sutherland, El-Akabi, Lowe, Cooper