Old Mid-Whitgiftian 27 - Old Whitgiftian 21
The eagerly anticipated derby between these old friends and rivals did not disappoint. This was an absorbing contest played at pace which entertained a good gathering of supporters with the lead changing hands no less than six times but with Mids edging
Whits were the sharper starters as indeed they were at most of the many restarts during the afternoon. Home winger Marc McEvilly twice stopped promising attacks, first when he bravely dived on a loose ball and then with a crunching tackle. Mids, having weathered the early storm set up some moves of their own with flanker Martin Simmonds prominent. An injury to John Bocking after 7 minutes which necessitated a long delay for treatment meant that Mids introduced Rob Farmer, normally a winger but a versatile performer who can fill several positions. He did not disappoint and was man of the match for the hosts.
Mids continued to press and a slick move at the front of the lineout saw scrum half David Stanton make ground down the right. They retained possession well, prop Jacques Bryant putting himself about with two big hits. Whits were forced to concede a number of penalties and after 17 minutes lock Matt Shillabeer scored for Mids and Whits suffered a yellow card to add to the deficit of 0-5. Despite being a man down the visitors dominated the next period. They battered the Mids line and forced a 5 metre scrum after 22 minutes. However, in this department Mids had a definite advantage and denied Whits good possession with No. 8 George Daniels hacking clear.
Whits came again and forced a penalty after 25 minutes which fly half Andrew Marshall slotted to make it 5-3. Mids hooker Adam Stammers made two good drives but the visitors kept the screws on and after some promising moves Mids infringed again to give Marshall another chance. This he duly took and Whits were 6-5 to the good. They should have increased their lead from the restart when some half-hearted tackling from Mids allowed them to burst through but a forward pass destroyed the move.
Mids now recovered their composure and set up a fine move. A long pass to McEvilly on the left wing gave him the chance to make ground. The ball was spread well and Shillabeer drove to the line. He was held up just short but the ball was recycled quickly and skipper Ali Hall was in for what is now becoming his weekly try to regain the lead for Mids at 10-6 after 43 minutes. This started a flurry of scoring in the extended injury time. Whits raced downfield and despite some fine tackling by Simmonds they were sharper than Mids and picked up a loose ball to send Charlie Petschi in for a try. 11-10 to Whits. Again they had a chance to stretch the lead from the kick-off but took the wrong option with Mids at sixes at sevens and the chance was gone. Instead it was the home side who finished the stronger when a good break out of defence led to a powerful run down the right by winger Nat Briggs. Quick support and a fortunate bounce gave Farmer the chance to dot down under the posts and the conversion by fly half Dan Crouch saw Mids in the lead at half time by 17-11.
Whits were again sharp at the restart and forced a line out in the 22. Second row Tom Hipsey, who had jumped like a stag for his side took the ball and Whits drove under the posts. Quick ball led to a copy book try and Marshall’s conversion put them back in the lead at 18-17. Twice in quick succession Mids were penalised for holding on and Whits capitalised to bring play from their own 22 to a position in the home half which was in Marhall’s range. He nailed the kick and it was 21-17 to the visitors after 49 minutes.
Mids now tightened up their play ansd some excellent driving and tackling by Simmonds, Bryant and Stammers and a huge hit by debutant lock Farooq Agbalaya led to sustained pressure in the Whits half. They sensibly went for points from a Crouch penalty and reduced the arrears to a single point with plenty of time remaining. This time from the restart it was Whits who failed to tidy up and a hack ahead gave McEvilly the chance to chase for the touchdown but Whits just got there in time. Mids had momentum now and Daniels set up a sparkling move to give Mids an excellent platform in the right corner. Their strength up front must have yielded a try but patience was lacking. They did keep the pressure on and forced a number of scrums deep in the 22. Replacement prop Nathan Bacon seemed to have scored but a Whits arm under the ball denied him. From the next scrum Mids moved the ball left and centre Matt Shields found a gap to cross and go behind the posts for a most satisfying and, as it turned out, winning try. With 11 minutes still remaining Mids had to survive some strong Whits pressure and one or two loose plays had their supporters on edge. However, they tightened up again and a period of sensible picking and driving and a powerful run from replacement winger Tom Webster ensured that the game finished in Whits territory.
Whits thoroughly deserved their losing bonus point and Mids had eventually managed their own bonus point with four tries for the first time this season.