Verbally assaulted from the kickoff by the opposition and their numerous supporters, all braving a cold evening to wreak revenge, under floodlights, for their heavy defeat earlier in the season, Chiswick failed to deal adequately with the challenge. The first ( sensible ) kick to touch was greeted with a screamed “ Look, their heads are down already “ from their hard-working, but over-vociferous No.6 and captain. A suitable response was called for, but never came. Not that Chiswick stopped playing, but that they never really worked out a plan to deal with a feisty team, whose No.8 was everywhere in support, and one of whose wings was all knees-off and hands-off – very difficult to tackle.
To begin with, Chiswick coped, and within a couple of minutes were ahead, Simon Hallett slotting a fairly simple penalty kick after Ignatians strayed offside. Newcomer Charlie Rigg was soon in the action, catching the kick-off, and then rolling through a tackle to get up and go again. It was soon apparent that the home team were going to kick long and try to pin Chiswick at the lower end of the pitch. Their lineout work was very good, producing good ball at the front, middle or tail of the lineout. Together with using their No.8 in the middle of the attacking line, and putting a lot of pressure on the Chiswick lineout, these tactics were very successful. Chiswick matched them in the scrums, but could not control their own lineouts. When they did get ball, the re-organised (yet again) back division relied too heavily on Max Burrows to make a break, allowing Ignatians to concentrate their defence on the Chiswick outside centre.
The first home score arrived after fifteen minutes. A rare loose kick by Hallett went straight to the dangerous No.11. He was wrapped up by the impressive Tom Gadsby, but Ignatians moved the ball about well on the edge of the Chiswick 22, and nearly scored with a neat kick ahead and over the try line for their other wing to chase. Gabs Lowe just got their first, however. The Chiswick defence then went AWOL after a home lineout. The Ignatians player went round the tail of the lineout and tore down the left wing: with everyone trailing behind in a mass, he then managed to find one of his own players, who repeated the move, and they scored in the left corner. The kick was well short.
Jon Joyce and Matt Cooper were the other lines of attack, and the former was stopped illegally as Chiswick came back strongly. At this stage, Chiswick might have gone for an easy three points, but went for a lineout instead. Unfortunately, Hallett sliced his kick to the left corner and Ignatians were presented with a scrum on their 22. Again, a response was called for, but didn’t arrive. Ignatians broke downfield, and Ben Kelly had to produce an excellent tackle. Cooper and Gadsby then made good breaks as Chiswick counter-attacked, but the support was thin, and the moves fizzled out. After twenty five minutes, a sustained multi-phase home attack started with a good driving maul, and finished with a try in the left corner, again too far out for the kicker.
Igntians used their mauling ability well from now on to gain territory, and to weaken the Chiswick defence. When they spun the ball wide, a number of backs would converge on their fly half from different angles, making the defence difficult, whilst risking obstructing the would-be tacklers. This tactic worked well, and Chiswick were slowly worn down. Two home tries, one converted ( from the right side ), followed before half-time, as did a very unhelpful yellow card for a Chiswick player. The second try came five minutes into injury time (8 minutes in all). It was notable that on one occasion when Chiswick tried to counter-attack, Tom Steer was encircled by four home players when he received the ball! He did well to hold on until support arrived. Later, on making a good mark, he was rushed from short range by at least two home players as he went to kick the ball. A weak smile from the referee was the only outcome. ( In the second half, Luca Vannini was prevented by four home players from retrieving the ball to take a quick tap – surely football, not rugby tactics ).
The second half of this best-forgotten match began with a useful kick for Steer to chase. As seemed inevitable, the ball bounced over his head into touch as he led the race. Within four minutes Ignatians stretched their lead with a converted try after another maul. Chiswick, with Jon Olley on as a very useful sub, then improved and began to gain some territory. Gadsby, Cooper and Olley made some useful bursts, but the failure to get lineout ball rendered useless the favoured option of kicking penalties into the corner – quick taps would surely have been better. Vannini’s introduction after twenty five minutes added some dynamism to the attack, but the home defence was determined to give nothing away. Thirty minutes into the half Chiswick came nearest to scoring, with a sustained attack up to the home line. A yellow card was gained, but no points. A second thrust saw Cooper again just denied, but then the Chiswick pack was pushed off the ball at a scrum five metres from the home line, and that was it.
With a minute of normal time left, Ignatians were still hungry and managed to score two converted tries before the final whistle provided relief to Chiswick. Chiswick’s physio, Anya, did a great job at the end, tending to an apparently concussed Chris Hitchcock flat on his back on the pitch for the final moments of the match. The final score failed to reflect the effort put in by Chiswick, but left a few questions.
Chiswick team: Cooper, McKinley, Chraplewczyk, Joyce, Gadsby, Kelly, Biss, Rigg, Dovey, Hallett, Steer, Hitchcock, Burrows, Cairns, Lowe; Olley, Vannini, Donaldson
Author: D Lovell