Chiswick battle into London 1
A beautiful day, a large crowd, and a place in London 1 at stake put the players of each team under great stress, and as a result the rugby was not quite of the high standard both teams are capable of. Nevertheless, it was nail-bitingly exciting, and with one minute of normal time left, extra time seemed inevitable. However-
To start from the beginning. The home pack won the first scrum, but the Diss No.8 was grabbed by Chiswick captain and scrum half Luca Vannini before he could get going. Chiswick heeled the ball, whilst retreating, at their first scrum, but their No.8, Sam Leslie-Miller, as he is wont, managed to get away with the ball, only to lose it in the tackle. After one abortive attempt to spread the ball wide, Diss attacked up the middle, using their forward strength to progress, and after five minutes they gained a penalty in front of the posts and went three points ahead. With most of the early possession, Diss tried hard to spread the ball across the pitch, but the Chiswick mid-field pair, Jon Gibson and Dan Godfrey, were tigerish in their tackles, and with the formidable support of flanker Riki Darroch and backs Tom Steer, Dan Sutherland and Joe Grindle, the home team lost ground nearly every time as their passes went further and further backwards. After twelve minutes, Chiswick were beginning to come more into the game, with Simon Hallett and Jon Joyce probing the home defence, and when they gained a penalty twenty metres in from the right touch-line, Hallett levelled the score with a good kick against the wind.
>Matt Pickering took the low kick-off well to start another Chiswick attack. Diss got the ball back eventually, but then made the mistake of kicking long. Meat and drink for Grindle, who brought Sutherland into an attack, carried on by the forwards, and ending with a glorious try, Hallett breaking the home line and putting Godfrey in close to the posts. Hallett slotted the kick, and Chiswick were deservedly ahead. With the Chiswick pack coming to terms with the home forwards in the scrums, it was only in the lineouts where Diss stayed on top. Their tackling remained solid, however, and few openings appeared on either side. Diss worked hard to get to the Chiswick 22, whereafter they could rely on their forward power to inch towards the line. Chiswick were penalised for collapsing a maul, but survived the ensuing onslaught, with Tom Shattock, holding grimly on to the ankle of the Diss lock, and Leslie-Miller, prominent in the defence.
Diss pressure finally told, when a Chiswick forward got yellow-carded for lying on the wrong side: Diss opted for a scrum, and the disorganised Chiswick pack was pushed back and wheeled, allowing Diss to score a try, which they could not convert, in the right corner. Chiswick mettle was now fully tested, but their confidence was high and they survived a rocky first five minutes. Super-sub Jan Joubert had come on, and Gibson reinforced the scrums. Effective Chiswick tackling was now vital, and they succeeded in getting several turnovers by holding up a tackled player long enough for the referee to award them a scrum.
Half-time arrived with no further score, and the momentum appeared to be with Chiswick. The second half was punctuated by two yellow cards, one for each team. Chiswick again survived their fourteen man period, with the aid of the hold-up turnover ploy. The Chiswick support play was immense, and coach Adrian Hoile could feel proud of the 100% effort being put in by the team he had built up during the season, with the fond memory of previous coach Rocky Skinner helping to spur them all on. The home yellow card was followed by a successful penalty kick by Hallett, and Chiswick remained five points ahead until the epic last five minutes. Diss did have one good break down the left wing, and it required an accurate tackle by Grindle to prevent a certain try.
With time running out Diss managed a good break out from their own half, and set up camp in the Chiswick 22. Three times their pack got over the Chiswick line; twice they were held up, but the third attempt was successful. The try was wide out, however, and the kicker nervously pulled the ball well left of the posts. With extra time looming, Adrian Hoile was reluctant to put the Chiswick subs on, but it proved unnecessary, as Joyce brilliantly caught the Chiswick kick-off, and Chiswick rampaged down-field. Diss were penalised and Hallett waited for silence, and then bisected the posts, to complete a fantastic personal performance and send the Chiswick supporters into raptures of delight as a new vista beckoned.