Chiswick secured a bonus point win at home against Fullerians, to move level with London Welsh, but this fixture was anything but easy in a match that finished under lights.
Fullerians turned up with the attitude and support team of a professional team, and Chiswick lost winger Ed Peach within 5 minutes of the start. To compound matters, Chiswick also has endure a 10 minute period playing with just 12 men as the referee opted to send Simon Allen-Clarke, Ben Kelly and then Sam Leslie-Miller all to the bin in quick succession, awarding Fullerians a penalty try for the final infringement. But Fullerians could not make advantage of the significant numerical advantage, and across the course of the game tries from Snook, Allen-Clarke, Dibble and Biss were enough to secure a 24-18 win.
The bonus point meant that Chiswick are now level with London Welsh on 36 points, both sides stretching their lead at the top. Local rivals Hammersmith & Fulham occupy third.
Result: Chiswick 24 Fullerians 18
What on paper appeared to be a relatively easy fixture turned into an almighty struggle for Chiswick, and they were lucky to emerge the winners, having been yellow-carded down to twelve players at a critical stage of the match. The visitors threw everything at the home team from the off, allowing no easy passages of play. Chiswick missed the thrust of Ryno Lopes as it took a while and a lot of phases to move up from their 22 to the half way line after an excellent Fullerians kickoff, despite a quadruple surge by Rich Bryan. Things looked gloomy for Chiswick when wing Ed Peach had to retire injured. When Fullerians finally got an attack going a grubber kick down the left wing caused problems in the home defence, and the visitors set up a good maul from a five metre lineout. The home defence managed to survive this first test with a turnover and a long relieving penalty kick. The first lineout mishap now occurred, with the Chiswick jumper deflecting the ball to the opposition. It became apparent that neither side would get quick ball from the scrums, with both No.8s finding it difficult as the packs got distorted. Chiswick did get one against the head, however, but could make little of it.
Chiswick eschewed a relatively easy kick at goal from the left side in favour of a lineout, and it looked to have succeeded as a number of home players crashed over the line after Sam Leslie-Miller had taken a good catch. “Held up” indicated the referee, however, and the Fullerians pack then got enough pressure on the home eight to prevent scrum half Joe Harlow getting at the ball, and the opportunity was lost. Both sides were kicking well, the left and right foot combination, of scrum half and fly half, on the Fullerians side, being matched by the longer contributions of home fly half Oliver Snook (apart from kicking one penalty dead). Chiswick got another scrum against the head, but were rushed into quick passes and Luis Haddow could not quite control an attempted pass to Gabs Lowe with a possible overlap situation. Just before half-time, hands in the ruck gave Fullerians a chance to notch three points, and their fly half slotted it comfortably. Prodded into reaction, Chiswick mauled to near the goal line before spreading the ball out to the right where Snook dived into the corner. His immaculate kick from three metres in from the touchline added the two points before the whistle went for half time.
A sustained attack by Fullerians heralded the crisis time for Chiswick. Aided by a couple of penalty kicks the visitors moved into the home 22, where they soon gained a penalty for failure to release a tackled player. As Chiswick’s defence came under more and more pressure, an immediately acknowledged high tackle reduced their numbers by one. Another penalty and then another yellow, for impeding the release of the ball from a ruck, I believe. Chiswick’s captain now had a quiet word with the referee, and became the third absentee for the next ten minutes. Two Fullerians tries almost inevitably followed, the second involving a speedy break along the touchline by two of their backs, chased forlornly by two home defenders. One kick failed, however, and after Fullerians had fumbled a couple of good attacks when well placed, Chiswick managed to work their way well into the visitors’ half, with Sam Biss and Marc Copperwheat prominent, and stay there until back to full complement.
With Fullerians still within reach, Chiswick discovered their normal form, and mauled over from a five metre lineout, James Dibble getting the touchdown. Snook’s kick was just pulled left. He made almost immediate amends with a huge kick down into the visitors’ 22, where the visitors made a rare mistake by not throwing the ball in straight. Haddow and sub Fred Topping made good ground before Simon Allen-Clarke fought his way over the line to put Chiswick into the lead, Snook adding the points. Fullerians were very determined not to capitulate, and forced Chiswick into giving away a penalty. They decided to go for, and got the three points on offer – possibly a mistake psychologically.
Chiswick in turn now risked going for a five metre lineout rather than a kick at goal, and muffed it, the ball easily clearing all the forwards. The next home lineout was OK, but the same overthrow occurred at the following one, with Chiswick really wanting a fourth try. A long maul for the line ended with wing Tom Steer tackled into touch just short as Fullerians defended tigerishly. Copperwheat managed to tap the ball back in the ensuing Fullerians’ lineout and Harlow sprinted round to keep the attack going. It was forwards Topping and Bryan who gained good yards before the referee awarded a home penalty. Another five metre lineout was successful, with Bryan the successful catcher. Finally Chiswick managed to maul over the line, Biss getting the touchdown. Snook’s two conversion attempts both failed, but Chiswick held out in a nail-biting finish. They are now level on points with London Welsh – the visitors on Dec.7th.
T: Snook, Dibble, SAC, Biss
C: Snook (2)
Chiswick team: Snape, Dibble, Allen-Clarke, Copperwheat, Bryan, Kelly, Biss, Leslie-Miller, Harlow, Snook, Steer, Lowe, Haddow, Peach, Philipson; Parmeter, Topping, Edgson
Author: D Lovell