Datchworth 21 Chiswick 20
This was a cracking game, with the result in doubt until the last Chiswick mistake, behind their own goal-line, led to the whistle and a delighted bunch of arm-waving home players. Conditions were soggy, leading to a few handling errors, and it was the determined defending by both teams that stood out. Full back Gabs Lowe was tested early on with a useful kick, and did well to run it back as far as he did, albeit the referee failing to see a knock-on. The returning No.7 Ryno Lopes was soon in the thick of things, but the new back line, with Harry Cox at fly half and Oliver Snook at inside centre took a while to settle, with wings Tom Steer and James Edgson seeing little of the ball. With Rich Bryan taking a comfortable catch at the first Chiswick lineout, and Sam Leslie-Miller stretching himself all which ways, confidence slowly built in this previously suspect part of their game.
That first lineout led to a good maul, with Leslie-Miller detaching and wriggling violently towards the home line. He was stopped short, but Chiswick gained a penalty and then another successful lineout, and another maul, ending with scrum half Joe Harlow streaking through for a try in the right corner. Snook’s kick failed. Datchworth immediately responded, and a high Garryowen caught Chiswick napping, as they allowed the kicker to make the catch. A Datchworth penalty led to a lineout and maul with a final swift pass out to their speedy left wing. In flew James Dibble, however, and tackled him into touch. Ben Kelly rescued this Chiswick lineout, after a fumble put the Chiswick try line at risk. Cox made the first of several long clearance kicks, but Datchworth looked dangerous as they sprinted back, with the Chiswick players scattered across the field.
Chiswick were in control for a period, but Bryan was well tackled as he tried to get the ball out near the home 22 after twenty minutes, and as the Chiswick players tried to move it quickly from the breakdown, the home left wing intercepted and raced upfield to score under the posts. 7-5. Minutes later the same player was shooting down the wing. He tried a chip over Lowe, but the full back turned and took a good catch. Another home attack failed when a pass for the wing went straight into touch. In turn a good break by Snook led nowhere after his pass out to Steer went astray. A quick tapped penalty and a speculative chip by Steer proved easy meat for the home backs. Lowe then made an excellent try-saving tackle on the home No.8 after he had broken from the base of the scrum and gained pace towards the line. Rather against the run of play Chiswick went ahead with a penalty kick just before half-time.
Chiswick laid siege to the home line soon after the interval with Snook, after several minutes, finding a way to ghost through the packed defence and swerve round to score under the posts. He then added the two points. Datchworth immediately had their own four minutes of possession, switching the attack from left to right, and using the forwards to gain a few yards, before a gap opened up in the Chiswick defence, and Datchworth were only one point behind, again.
As the half progressed, even with the Chiswick subs on, Datchworth seemed to constrain the visitors’ attacks more easily, with Chiswick making little ground against apparently superior numbers of players on each side of the pitch. Nonetheless Chiswick had plenty of possession, and Steer had a couple of runs before an attack down the right led to Lopes scoring in the right corner. Snook’s important kick just failed, unfortunately. Resorting to kicking to try to make ground was not working against a full back who anticipated them well, and only a good tackle by Cox stopped one threatening run back. A splendid bit of Chiswick handling in their own 22 then gave Snook a chance to show his paces. Unfortunately what would have been a try-scoring pass out to Steer was adjudged forward. Yet another kick out of defence, not into touch, finally undid Chiswick, with the Datchworth full back catching the ball at speed and finding a way between tiring defenders to score under the posts.
The final painful minutes ticked by with no last gasp redemption.
With London Welsh winning again, but without a Bonus Point, they lead the division by 3 points making their upcoming encounter even more enticing.
T: Harlow, Snook, Lopes
Chiswick team: Barkham, Dibble, Allen-Clarke, Copperwheat, Bryan, Kelly, Lopes, Leslie-Miller, Harlow, Cox, Steer, Snook, Farrell, Edgson, Lowe; Cooper, Biss, Joyce
Author: D Lovell