Champagne end to Chiswick’s season
A gloriously open Middlesex Cup Final between close neighbours provided a fitting end to a successful season for the home team. With the temperature in the upper twenties, and the nearby banks of the Thames occupied by hundreds of West London picnickers, the match was a ding-dong affair from the beginning to the end, over two hours later. The visitors started the better of the two teams, and were soon 8-0 up, with a penalty goal and a try from their backs after they had got too easily, not for the last time, through the first line of the home defence. Simon Hallett’s kicking boot was still hot from the last game, and he slotted a penalty goal before the home backs showed their paces with a neat try following a multi-phase passage of play. It was James Bunbury who scored, having found an exquisite angle of run to cut inside his marker and give Hallett a good chance of adding the points, which he did.
The second half became a blur of attack and counter-attack, with tries at regular intervals. Civil Service failed to score after a clean break should have guaranteed a try, and Chiswick came back with a try by the rumbustious Heath McDonough, converted by Hallett. Civil Service responded with an unconverted try in the left corner. Chiswick, who throughout the match failed to deal with the Civil Service kick-offs, eased further ahead with a Hallett penalty, but let their opponents straight back in when they allowed the Civil Service right flank too much space, and then couldn’t close them down fast enough. The Civil Service No. 12 converted this one to level the scores. Marc Copperwheat was already on in place of Simon Allen-Clarke, and now Tom Shattock made a welcome return in place of McDonough. The Chiswick pack had started well, and they maintained the upper hand throughout the game, giving Chiswick good chances to attack; the lineouts were another matter, and must be improved for next season.
Hallett now pushed a penalty kick just wide before the visitors scored an excellent try in the left corner, after mauling to close to the home line on the right side of the pitch. Tom Steer and Sam Hood now came on, as Civil Service missed an important conversion. The dominant Chiswick pack now did the necessary after gaining a five metre scrum in front of the posts, captain Sam Leslie-Miller getting the touchdown, and the Hallett conversion was a formality. Civil Service were not daunted, and after missing a penalty kick they scored a converted try in the right corner to go five points ahead. With time running out, it was a careless clearance kick by the Service which gave the brilliant Chiswick full-back Dan Sutherland a little space and a chance to show his paces. Bunbury was in support, and raced round the opposition to score wide out on the left. There was just time for the kick. Unfortunately for Hallett the east wind had just got up, and his kick swerved tantalisingly just left of the posts. 32-32 and ten minutes each way to follow.
Four minutes into extra time Adam Ross, the Chiswick scrum half, aimed a kick towards the right corner flag – the ball unfortunately out-pacing the Chiswick runners to go over the dead ball line. Gabs Lowe had come on in place of Dan Purkiss, and soon had to try to cope with an overlap situation, which led to a Civil Service try in the left corner, again not converted. Leslie-Miller went off injured soon after this, and things looked grim for Chiswick. They kept attacking, however, and got very close to the line in a surge of players around Dan Godfrey. The final moments were dramatic. Sutherland made space down the right, Lowe carried on and handed off a defender before setting Steer free. The wing man, instead of trying to fight his way to the line, threw a long inside pass to Ross, steaming down the centre of the pitch, and the scrum half had enough pace to reach the posts. Euphoria reigned, and Hallett’s simple conversion sparked an explosion of relief and delight from the large crowd as the whistle blew. It was not long before champagne was fountaining into the air after the on-pitch presentation of the Middlesex Cup.
Chiswick team:- McDonough, Parmeter, Dean, Watene, Allen-Clarke, Biss, Darroch, Leslie-Miller, Ross, Hallett, Purkiss, Godfrey, Bunbury, Millais, Sutherland; Shattock, Chraplewczyk, Hood, Copperwheat, Steer, Lowe