A comfortable start for the home team turned out to be mis-leading, as the visitors, with a new scrum half, slowly found their feet and finished the match strongly in a match which saw Chiswick lose two backs to serious injuries; James Bunbury (broken jaw) and Eliot Rich (dislocated knee). Strangely, whereas Letchworth matched their last year’s score, Chiswick’s was halved; nevertheless, it made three wins in a row for them in an excellent start to the season.
Oliver Snook’s good long kick-off led to a home scrum in the Letchworth 22, and after a brief attack to the right, scrum half Gabs Lowe switched to the left, and, with good forward support, eventually scored the first try of the match. Snook’s conversion attempt was just wide of the mark. Letchworth came back strongly immediately, but soon incurred the referee’s wrath. Neither team could keep possession for long now, as perceived gaps were probed unsuccessfully by both teams. Andy Ibberson combined well with Eliot Rich to get into the visitors’ 22, but the move foundered on a poor pass. Sam Leslie-Miller got nearly to the try line with a quickly taken penalty and after probes to left and right Chiswick got over the line, but the ball was held up. The continual home pressure was finally rewarded as Fred Topping got over the line for an unconverted try.
Simon Allen-Clarke did very well to take the kick-off on the half-volley as other home players ignored it, but Chiswick failed to keep control of the ball, and then had Max Burrows yellow-carded when the referee decided a flailing arm was a deliberate knock-on. The Letchworth No.8 was beginning to combine well with their new scrum half, whilst coping often with a retreating scrum. Most of the home lineouts had been good, but now the Letchworth No.9 managed to snaffle a home throw, and set up a move up the left wing with a surfeit of supporting players, one of whom touched down in the corner, where he had been driven by some desperate defending. The difficult kick was pushed right. Letchworth had the bit between the teeth now, and with James Bunbury injured and being treated on the side-line, the visitors took advantage of the situation to draw level with another unconverted try. Harry Cox came on for Bunbury, and went to scrum half, with Lowe going to full back. Lopes came back on only to be yellow-carded.
Letchworth looked the slicker at the beginning of the second half, but began to lose penalties for offside as the home defence was tested to the full. Snook punished them with long touch kicks. Debutant Brook Wannop now replaced Lopes in a difficult situation against the confident Letchworth team. A lost lineout in their 22 put Chiswick on the rack, but they were saved as Allen-Clarke bulldozed his way up field. Crucially, when the visitors got a kickable penalty, the ball was pushed just wide, and Chiswick were stirred into reaction. Letchworth knocked-on the kick-off, and a multi-phase Chiswick attack followed with forwards and backs involved before they gained a lineout in the Letchworth 22. A good throw and take was followed by a surge for the line, and when the ball went loose, Burrows swooped in and shot irresistibly over the line. Snook could not miss this one. Ten minutes to go.
Great defence by Chiswick followed, with notable tackles by Tom Harper and Lowe before a couple of penalties against Letchworth allowed Snook to gain a five metre lineout, from which Allen-Clarke powered over for the bonus point (converted) try. With little time left, Letchworth scored a breakaway (converted) try. Tension was high, but then tragedy struck, with Rich getting a nasty injury, requiring an ambulance, and the moving of the match to an adjacent pitch as the player was treated. Letchworth did manage another try, thereby getting two bonus points, but the kick failed.
Chiswick team: Leslie-Miller, F., Dibble, Allen-Clarke, Copperwheat, Bryan, Topping, Lopes, Leslie-Miller, S., Lowe, Snook, Ibberson, Harper, Bunbury, Burrows, Rich; Edgson, Wannop, Cox