Old Mid-Whitgiftian 27 - Old Freemens 33
Mids started with gusto this week and in only the second minute a break by centre Andy Dean gave them a good position in the Freemen’s 22.
They set up a driving maul and from this centre Rob Farmer forced his way over for a try, converted by fly half Dan Crouch. The lead was short-lived. 6 minutes in Mids missed touch with a penalty and the visitors were allowed to break downfield. They seemed certain to score when winger Harry Wilson brought off a great last ditch tackle. Freemen’s recycled well, however, and put in centre Sam Tresadern for a try by the posts. Full back Gus Noble converted to tie the scores at 7-7.
4 minutes later Mids were back in front when a turnover in midfield and a kick ahead forced Freemen’s to hold on and Crouch did the necessary with the penalty awarded. Mids were guilty of the same offence soon after and Noble levelled the score again.
Mids now played plenty of running rugby with Dean and winger Marc McEvilly prominent. Handling was not sure, however, and a number of opportunities went begging when passes were dropped. Things were tidier on 23 minutes when Dean intercepted and sent Mids on an exciting passage of play in which the ball was moved quickly to and fro with McEvilly again showing style. Wilson came in at pace on a lovely angle to score under the posts. Crouch converted and Mids were 17-10 to the good. Freemen’s responded with some excellent loose play from their forwards but the Mids defence performed well with every man contributing. Eventually they were penalised at the ruck and Noble reduced the deficit. He and Crouch then exchanged penalty goals to leave Mids 20-16 in front at the interval.
A big turning point came early in the second half when Mids were punished for some sloppy play. First a straightforward touch from a penalty was missed and when Mids had won back possession after being under pressure in their own 22 they messed up an attempt to run the ball out and gifted centre Alan Auld a try. Noble’s conversion meant that it was now 23-20 to the visitors.
The Freemen’s forward were now getting on top in scrum and maul and a driving maul that went all of 30 metres was ominous. Mids stuck to their task, however, and won back possession. Another mesmerising in and out running move with Wilson and McEvilly involved led to a fine run by skipper Ali Hall and ended with the prop flicking an outrageous reverse pass (in the Russell Jones mould!) to Dean who rounded the defence to touch down with glee.
Mids were now 27-23 ahead but after 54 minutes were penalised for offside and Freemen’s kicked to the corner. The home side had no answer to a powerful driven maul and flanker Simon Daniels got the touchdown to put the visitors one point in the lead.
Mids responded with some good running and a fine charge down the line by flanker Farooq Agbalaya but it was the visitors who had the last word when they completely out scrummaged the Mids pack and scores a pushover try, No. 8 Grant Macdonald touching down.
Dean refused to surrender and put his body on the line in winning a loose ball to give Mids one more chance but Freemen’s had shut up shop and emerged as worthy winners. They had made fewer mistakes and Mids were left ruing the early tackles missed which put them under fierce pressure. They had been enterprising in their efforts but again ended on the wrong side in a tight game which could have gone the other way only for a string of errors.