Hammersmith came to Riverside Lands determined to avenge the trouncing they had received earlier in the season, and were within a few feet of gaining at least a draw – that was the distance forward a pass went in one of the few sustained movements put together by the talented back divisions of either side. Chiswick’s main weapon in a very tight match was their mauling, which was ultimately too strong for their opponents, the Chiswick pack being bolstered by the large new prop Tom Dean .
Early on it was a different story, at least in the scrums, where the Hammersmith forwards packed lower and held the home pack comfortably. The lineouts were a lottery throughout, with a cold gale force wind blowing down the pitch. Chiswick failed to use it well in the first half, applying early pressure with an open game which had served well in the earlier match. Not surprisingly passes drifted in front of players, and mid-range or long throw-ins were gleefully grabbed by the opposition. Josh Noble was the first to try a high wind-assisted kick, but it drifted straight into touch. Jon Joyce intercepted the ensuing Hammersmith throw, and the home team kept up the pressure, but the Hammersmith forwards returned the compliment at the next home lineout. Jo Grindle, returning from injury, tried hard to create openings, with his jinking style, but was well-marked from the start by a respectful opposition.
Twelve minutes in, and against the run of play, a long kick established a platform for Hammersmith in the home 22, and a simple move left along the line ended with the wing holding off the vain clutches of two Chiswick defenders, and strolling through for a try. The kick failed. Chiswick roared back, and were level within five minutes, mauling over the line from a five metre lineout – Hallett’s touch kick, James Dibble’s accurate throw and Joyce’s take making it look easy. It was Mike Fatsis who got the try and the back slaps. Hallett’s kick came back from the post via the crossbar.
Chiswick kept battering away at the Hammersmith defence, but it remained solid. Dan Sutherland had a chance to run at the defence, but he substantially over-cooked what needed to be a delicate chip kick, and nobody was going to catch the ball within the field of play. Hammersmith did well to hold out till half-time with Chiswick more or less camped in their 22.
On the resumption, Hammersmith immediately produced a wind-assisted grubber kick, but Grindle’s defence was sure, as usual. The visitors first sustained attack near the home line ended with a knock-on as Chiswick switched to rush defence mode. Hammersmith kept pressing, but Sam Leslie-Miller was finding a bit of space behind the opponents’ scrum to set off on his runs, and gain valuable metres. When Hammersmith took a bit of a breather, Chiswick struck, with Grindle finding just enough space between three or four surrounding defenders to slip the ball out to the left touch-line where Noble was in over-drive. The kick was impossible.
Hammersmith gained some encouragement each time Chiswick knocked on a long kick, but the home defence got stronger as the match progressed, and the home pack were beginning to prevent Hammersmith getting quick ball. The hard work of the home forwards, exemplified by No.7 Rikki Darroch, kept Hammersmith in the middle section of the pitch for long periods, and Chiswick were helped by the wind easing a bit as blue sky arrived. Hammersmith missed a fairly simple three points, when a five metre lineout seemed the better option.
With fifteen minutes to go and the subs coming on the match was still for the taking, but the defensive work of both teams was outstanding, with only rare glimpses of an opening. It was, perhaps inevitably, a turnover ball that led to the forward pass referred to earlier, thwarting a rare Hammersmith move. With five minutes to go, however, they ran back a chip from inside their own 22, in a style the home team would have been proud of, and Chiswick were relieved when the move fizzled out in the home 22. After this scare, Chiswick ran the clock down efficiently, to retain their third position in the League.
Chiswick team :- Dean, Dibble, Tonkin, Joyce, Fatsis, Adams, Darroch, Leslie-Miller, Vannini, Hallett, Steer, Gibson, Noble, Sutherland, Grindle, Joubert, Cooper, Lowe