Gosford and Chippy go to the wire in a bonus point thriller
Gosford's league leader spot is contested by a strong Chippy side
With only 160 minutes of competitive rugby left this calendar year the Gosford All Blacks II XV were looking to extend their run at the top of the table after a very strong showing against Didcot in their previous game. With the elements turning bitterly cold there was a concern that the ground would be too hard to play on, as was seen up and down the Country. However, with the Brake getting the green light it was game on for the black giants who once again had a very strong line-up.
Up until this point Chipping Norton II XV had been unable to field a side for 4 of the 8 games they’d played, however the games they did put out a team strong performances led to winning 3 of the 4 games, combined with their 1st XV not having a game, Gosford knew they were going to have a very physical contest and could not afford any complacency.
With Rich Robbins getting the game underway, his kick would be charged down by the Gosford pack, with first hit honours going to Carl Brooks, the lumpy Chippy pack looked to gain initial territory by some forward phases, however, the defence was good, unable to make any sufficient ground the ball was knocked on and Gosford would win a penalty just inside their own half. With cornerstones Master Tom Bates and Rick Green controlling the scrum all season, the first was to be no exception, the initial shove was good enough to drive the Chippy pack back, where scrum half Robbins collected and fed fly-half Rob Eynon for the first time.
The Chippy defensive line was quick to put the pressure on and through passed hands Pete Copp would be tackled in the centre, Gosford backrow work horse Sam Durley was first to the breakdown, with support from Copp’s centre partner Marc Grant, the two were able to secure a good platform until a Chippy player would join from the side awarding the All Blacks a penalty 35 yards out. With Eynon having hands on the ball a quick tap and go would gain another 10 yards before offloading to Master Bates who would drive his way forward another 10 yards. 5 yards shy the ball was stolen by Chippy who hastily cleared their lines for a lineout on the 22.
The first real break came from another Eynon quick tap and go penalty, jinking his first man he would unload danger runner Connor Sadler who would bound his way forward to the 22, with older brother Kieran Sadler also making his debut for the Blacks this weekend he would pick up the next phase, brought down 10 yards shy, with Chippy ignoring the refs warnings about the side entry, their keen second row would chance his luck and immediately get a penalty given against him for his efforts. With options to kick to touch, pass along the back line, flanker Dan Talbot spotted his miss match on the line, tapped to himself, ran over the top of the Chippy player and smashed down the first try of the game. With Pete Copp on kicking duties he’d coolly slot over the extras for a 7 – 0 lead.
The rest of the first half was very stop/start, with neither team able to get long periods of sustained possession, it was Chippy who would end on the stronger foot, camped in the Gosford 22 for the final phases of the half it was strong defence led by Tim Davies that would keep them at bay. With that the ref blew the whistle for the half and both teams would switch sides and get ready to go again. At the break Max would be subbed on and it would be the Chippy fly-half to get things underway once more.
As soon as the kick was in the air the Chippy forwards were charging, their half time team talk seemed to have sparked the passion in them. They were instantly on receiver Connor Sadler who was brought down in a bundle fashion, with the Gosford pack replicating the move, it left Master Bates to be the man to pick and go, but with ground gained being minus 5 yards Robbins box kicked the ball to safety, only for it to be caught by their winger who would dance his way through to the Gosford 22. He was brought down by the sea of Gosford forwards but the burley Chippy 8 picked at the base of the ruck and walked his way over 3 tackles to score. With the conversion missed the score was now 7 – 5 and the momentum Chippy had at the end of the first half they carried forward with them into the second.
With Richie getting things restarted the ball would be caught by the quick footed winger, who again would dance his way past the splintered Gosford defence to score a second in quick succession, with the conversion missed again Chippy had now taken the lead 7 – 10 and the Gosford giants were on the edge of losing their game.
With the 3rd restart in about as many minutes the Gosford forward line were more composed in getting things back, the catcher was brought down hard by Kieran Sadler and the only option was for a kick clearance, by now the Gosford players were pumped! And the ball caught by Matt Strong would be run back hard, breaking the first tackle, sidestepping the second who would push his way back into the Chippy 22. With Gosford having the ball a few forward phases were being ran through Brooks and Master Bates, 15 yards out the Chippy forward entered the breakdown from the side and Gosford used this advantage through Eynon, releasing his centre pairing, the Copp Grant combo would bundle their way forward five yards short.
Going back to the original infringement and with the Chippy defence fragmented, a quick tap to K.Sadler who would bulldoze his way through for his first Gosford try on his debut and with Copp converting the extras once more the score was now back with the All Blacks 14 – 10. There was a real sense of triumph in the black camp and the momentum switch would now be important to hold on to. At this point Mark Diamond was brought on for the dependable Rick Green in the front row, who had been doing huge amounts of work all over the pitch.
With the Chippy side a bit shell shocked in how they had gained the lead and lost it all so quickly they were determined to get back on top. Restart caught by Talbot who would brush pash his first man before passing to Eynon who would again release the centre paring, with Grant on the ball he’d run over his man rather than round him, before running a good switch line with Christophe. The wired winger would fend of his first tackler but would be chopped down 30 yards out by the second. In a bizarre fashion the Chippy line would steal the ball at this breakdown, but so be the Gosford defence the next 3 phases saw them go back another 10 yards.
Here Durley would get probably the oddest try seen in rugby, the ball was passed back to the Chippy fly half in kicking the ball he would kick his own feet, the ball bobbled on the floor and a Chippy centre would fly-hack it into Durley’s legs, bouncing over the Chippy fly half who had wrapped himself into some form of human pretzel.
Durley would react quickest and again kick it on, the Chippy full back went to dive for the ball and missed as it bounced over him. Durley hurdled the diving full back, kicking it on again, the Chippy winger would come over to secure the ball but again in attempting to fly hack the ball would slice it, and kick the ball over the try line. Leaving Durley to pounce on it and extend Gosford’s lead. With Copp missing the extras the All Blacks now led 19 – 10.
The final and bonus point try would come from a clever back interchange, the Gosford forwards had been camped on the Chippy 10 yard line for about 5 minutes, running lines through Diamond, the Sadler Brothers and Master Bates, all to be brought short. With Robbins releasing Eynon, who’d delay hiss pass to Talbot, who pass to Durley who would release Brooks to score in the corner. In the scoring process Brooks to a heavy double sliding knee to the ribs. The newly clean shaven hooker was down. But, he scored the try so we were happy. With Copp converting the extras the score now 26 – 10, the final play ended with Grant kicking the ball to touch and securing the bonus point win for the All Blacks.
This was a truly great performance against a strong Chippy side, notable mentions go to Kieran Sadler for scoring on his debut, Tim Davies and Rick Green for the strong work round the pitch, Eynon for running a good dummy line gaining 50 yards forward then running 20 yards sideways and Christophe again another debut but getting more and more into the game as time went on.
Men of the match though go to Tom Bates in the forwards, incredible breakdown work winning lots of turnovers, excellent scrumming and continued growth show him a force to be reckoned with. And, Pete Copp in the centre, tackling was impeccable, line running was strong breaking tackles and kicking from the tee was solid all game.
Final game of the year is away to Abingdon who have always historically put a strong side out against Gosford and this game is sure to be no exception. With them determined to spoil the run and knock Gosford off the top spot of the BBON4.