Result: Grasshoppers 30 Chiswick 34
Chiswick pulled this nail-biting encounter out of the fire with moments to spare. The spanking new all-weather pitch encouraged running rugby, so cold fingers had to be the excuse for the number of spilled passes and other errors littering the play. The first knock-on happened on five seconds, and thirty seconds later Chiswick gave away their first penalty. Another minute and newly married Sam Leslie-Miller had to cope with his first back-pedalling scrum. Marc Copperwheat, Ben Kelly and Will Ridgeway had early runs as Chiswick fought to find some space against the hard-pressing Grasshoppers defence. After ten minutes, Tom Steer wove his way past a number of flailing defenders, finally gaining a penalty, which Oliver Snook converted into three points.
Grasshoppers responded almost immediately, their full back counter-attacking from a loose clearance. The ball eventually reached their inside centre near the left touch-line, and the defending Chiswick wing, Ed East, was blocked ( not very deliberately ) from tackling by a large Grasshoppers lock. The kick came back off the post. Grasshoppers then messed up the kickoff, and Joe Harlow took a quick tap and wriggled through to the line for an excellent opportunist try, well-converted by Snook.
Chiswick’s clearance from the kickoff was charged down, but luckily the referee found reason to penalise the home team soon after and Snook found a good touch. Grasshoppers had a long period of possession soon after, and had nearly reached the Chiswick 22 before the ball was turned over. Breaking rapidly, Snook threw a long pass out, only just beyond the reach of the Grasshoppers player, to Gabs Lowe, who found Ed East (a first team feature in the past, before injuries took their toll) burning up the carpet outside him. East drew the last defender beautifully before gifting the ball back inside for Lowe to score. Another splendid kick by Snook took the score to 17-5.
Chiswick dealt with the kickoff, but then gave away a penalty for failure to release, and after a five metre lineout, Grasshoppers set up a good maul. When the ball was released it reached their left wing in enough space to reach the line in one burst, as the Chiswick defence failed to organise itself. The kick was poor. With half-time approaching Grasshoppers kept the pressure up, and Chiswick soon gave away another penalty, and a consequential five metre lineout. This time the home maul was good enough to get over the line and score an unconverted try. With Grasshoppers on top, some luck now came Chiswick’s way, with the referee taking offence at comments made and yellow-carding a home player. The subsequent penalty kick set Chiswick up with a five metre lineout, and with Sam Leslie-Miller catching and driving, a try looked likely. Over-eagerness, however, led to an offside decision against the visitors. Grasshoppers counter-attacked, and Farrell had to make a good tackle from behind to stop a certain score. There was no more score before half time
Grasshoppers were soon on the attack in the second half, and near the Chiswick ten metre line, when Snook suddenly swooped on a mistake and took off for the posts at a rate of knots with a trail of defenders slowly catching him up. Steer was in support, however, and managed to outflank the defence to score. Another good kick by the fly half gave Chiswick a nine point lead. Grasshoppers came straight back, and with the Chiswick backs under pressure the ball went loose in their 22, and was picked up by the home right wing, who scored their fourth try, which was not converted. Things now got worse for Chiswick when, having won a lineout, they managed to lose the ball, which was kicked on down the left touchline, with their wing getting to it first and scoring near the posts to put the home team ahead.
A rare poor Grasshoppers’ kick allowed East to make an incisive break, with Chiswick reaching the home line before offending the referee yet again. It was a hopeful kick over the home try line that produced the next score, with a wicked bounce taking the ball away from a defender for Steer to snatch the bonus point try and put Chiswick two points ahead. With Snook off the field, possibly as a result of his commentary on the game, the kick was given to Farrell, but he missed. With eight minutes left Lowe and Steer made a good attack but lacked sufficient support. Grasshoppers tried another long kick, but the Chiswick defenders got back in strength to deal with it. Grasshoppers gained a penalty after some severe pressure, however, and their fly half put them one point ahead. Chiswick roared back, and with Grasshoppers trying to run the ball out of defence, the visitors got a turnover, but then dropped the ball. Chiswick kept the Grasshoppers in their 22 for the final minutes, however, and after four or five unrewarded surges for the line, Snook powered over to complete a rather lucky win.
T: Harlow, Steer (2), Lowe, Snook
C: Snook (3)
Chiswick team: Barkham, Biss, Parmeter, Copperwheat, Lane, Wannop, Kelly, S. Leslie-Miller, Harlow, Snook, Steer, Farrell, Ridgeway, East, Lowe; F Leslie-Miller, Edgson, Hill
Author: D Lovell