21st February 2015
Chiswick 8 – Old Haberdashers 17
Chiswick finally met their match, Haberdashers proving marginally the better team, at least in the unusually slippery conditions at Riverside Lands, conditions which changed the home back line from being slippery to hold to slipping over. The tall Haberdashers backs ran straight and fast, and tackled well, but would still have been sorely tested if the home backs had been able to reproduce their recent form.
The Chiswick forwards were also affected by the conditions, the scrums often ending with the home pack sliding slowly and gently backwards, causing difficulties for the usually exuberant Sam Leslie-Miller at No.8. Worse for the home team was the splendid form of Haberdashers’ No.5 in the lineouts, where Sam Hood was having unusual problems in giving Luca Vannini a decent service.
Things started well enough for Chiswick, with the wind behind them, there being little to choose between the teams early on. An early win-assisted kick by Joe Grindle for Dan Sutherland to chase went into touch only about ten metres from the Haberdashers’ line. The throw-in went over the lineouts and gave Rikki Darroch a chance to run at the line. The move foundered on the referee’s whistle, however, and this first scoring chance was not taken. Another excellent kick by Grindle almost led to a chance for Tom Steer, but he was just second to the ball near the corner flag.
Chiswick tried hard to take the initiative, and another move involving Grindle and Sutherland ended with Steer being ushered into touch five metres short – Haberdashers’ last ditch defence proving very solid. In turn, when the visitors’ fly half made a clean break in midfield, Grindle and Sutherland managed to throttle the move, although, as happened regularly later, Haberdashers had more players in support than the home team. On the half hour, Chiswick nosed ahead, with Simon Hallett managing a pass out of a three-man tackle, allowing Jon Gibson to set the speedy Josh Noble free to score in the left corner. Hallett’s kick was just short. With the first half drawing to a close, Chiswick set up a sustained attack in the visitors’ 22, and after Vannini had got very close to the line, Hallett took the three points on offer. Steer just failed to reach a long kick, and the whistle went.
Eight points seemed not enough, and so it proved. Haberdashers, aided by the wind, a certain amount of fortune with the bounce, and a nervousness in the Chiswick camp, were soon kicking for goal. The first kick just missed, but the second reduced the gap to three points. Before this, Chiswick had lost ten metres questioning a decision and later they were to be reduced to fourteen after a contretemps following an apparent high tackle as they failed to keep on the right side of the referee. In the meantime Haberdashers took full advantage of a five metre scrum, and, unusually, immediately gained a penalty try after the home pack had been shunted back almost to the line. The conversion followed and Haberdashers were ahead. Chiswick got straight back on the attack, with Leslie-Miller running a couple of kicks back well, but a minor disaster ensued when Chiswick were bringing on substitute Paul Wilson. As the home players waited, play re-commenced, and the quick-witted Haberdashers’ fly half found a gap in the home defence to put away their wing to score with Steer in vain pursuit. The try was converted.
Chiswick kept trying, and had a long period in the visitors’ 22 but Haberdashers’ defence was obdurate, and then Grindle was yellow-carded. Haberdashers could not take advantage of the extra player as the home team threw everything in to achieve revenge for the earlier defeat. Mikhail Alhoa made a great break, but could not find support in time and was then penalised for holding on. The home pack, with Matt Cooper on in the front row gained a heel against the head, but Leslie-Miller was well-tackled when in mid-flight. A final sustained home attack ended with a crossing decision against the Chiswick backs.
Chiswick team :- Dean, Dibble, Joubert, Hood, Alhoa, Gray, Darroch, Leslie-Miller, Vannini, Hallett, Steer, Gibson, Noble, Sutherland, Grindle; Cooper, Wilson, Lowe