Chiswick 23 Belsize Park 34
Showing great end-of-season commitment, but lacking a number of “regulars”, Chiswick were unlucky not to gain at least a point against a good Belsize Park team in mourning for their first choice fly half, killed very recently in a tragic accident. The afternoon in fact started with a minutes clapping, the teams being lined up and Belsize Park No.10 shirts being draped over the barrier railing.
With both teams well supported there was plenty to applaud in a very even first half. Typically it was Jon Joyce who was first to make a charge at the opposition. Hearteningly for the home team Belsize Park failed to make any ground when they tried a maul from their first attacking lineout, but in retaining possession on the edge of the Chiswick 22 they eventually lured the home team offside, and a simple kick put the visitors ahead. Chris Hitchcock put the Park No.15 in some trouble with a good kick into the corner, but he recovered well. Chiswick began to demonstrate their mauling expertise, and Blair McKinley was suddenly in the clear, bullocking towards the line. The last line of defence swallowed him and the ball up, unfortunately for Chiswick. Twenty minutes in Chiswick equalised through a Simon Hallett penalty.
Gabs Lowe will want to forget the next minute; Russ Dovey fielded the kick-off well and returned the ball to Park’s full back. He kicked down the middle, in turn, and somehow the ball squiggled its way through the full back’s legs with the Park No.15 in hot pursuit. He managed the pick-up well, and that was Park seven points ahead. Chiswick stormed indignantly downfield and charged down the attempted clearance kick. The Park defence looked wobbly at this stage, but they survived with some solid running. Sub Marko Chraplewczyk came on for McKinley, apparently his 397th appearance for the team ( he was certainly recorded as subbing in the last century in my match reports ). Chiswick kept up the pressure, and looked likely to score with Max Burrows racing for the line. He was caught by the cover defence, however, the Park players doing well to ensure he had no easy pass available as he was stopped.
Sam Hood and Marc Copperwheat were making a big effort in the loose, together with Tom Gadsby and Jon Joyce, but it was in mauling that Chiswick had the main advantage, and in trying to cope, Park lost their fly half to a yellow card. Finally, with Hallett and others helping to push, a pile of bodies went over the line, with Burrows clutching the ball. 10-10. after a great Hallett kick. Chiswick should have gone ahead, but again Burrows was stopped just short of the line, and was then penalised for failing to release the ball. Chiswick did manage to go ahead with a penalty goal from Hallett, however, just before half time.
The lead only lasted a couple of minutes, Park slotting an easy penalty kick for offside at the start of the second half. Chiswick retook the lead with another Hallett penalty goal and with Park making a couple of kicking mistakes, Chiswick looked relatively comfortable. Unfortunately, ten minutes into the half they lost their inside centre, yellow-carded for a high tackle. His tackling was sorely missed as Parks’ Nos. 13 and 15 combined well for the former to race in under the posts, and the latter to convert the try. With equality in the scrums and lineouts, Park had a slight territorial edge with their well-judged kick-offs. They were determined to use their numerical superiority, and only good tackles by Gadsby and Ed Peach stopped a couple of promising moves. With one minute left on the yellow card, however, Park increased their lead with a try in the left corner, very well converted.
With Chiswick restored to full strength, they changed the backs’ formation, Luca Vannini going to scrum half, and Dovey to full back with Lowe subbed off. Park were still pressing hard, but Chiswick were defending doggedly and did well to stop a maul in their 22, and then to prevent a score from a five metre lineout. Burrows made another break, but Steer could not find a way through a mass of defenders to carry on the move. With five minutes to go, Chiswick, chasing the game, succumbed to a sucker punch, an optimistic long pass being intercepted by a very happy Park player who just made it to the line.
In the last minute, Sam Biss flashed a super-quick tapped penalty to a flying Burrows, who nearly over-ran the dead ball line in his enthusiasm as no-one got near to tackling him. Hallett’s conversion might apparently be his last for the team. Roll on a super new all-weather pitch and floodlights and an extended Club-house – 2018/19 could be interesting!
Chiswick team:- Barkham, Dibble, McKinley, Copperwheat, Hood, Joyce, Biss, Gadsby, Dovey, Hitchcock, Steer, Hallett, Burrows, Peach, Lowe; Chraplewczyk, Kelly, Vannini
T: Burrows (2)
C: Hallett (2)
P: Hallett (3)