Old Blues 20 - Old Mid-Whitgiftian 15
Mids came to Arthur Road with high hopes of consolidating or even improving their position towards the top end of the table.
Things looked promising as they had a stranglehold in terms of territory in the first half. However, when they carelessly lost control of the ball from a scrum in midfield Blues took advantage of a missed tackle to spread the ball well and full back Nick Fox scored in the corner for a 5-0 lead to the hosts after 5 minutes.
Mids resumed their domination in the Blues half with the scrum in particular repeatedly driving their opponents back. They forced a penalty after 15 minutes and centre Marc McEvilly confidently drove the ball between the uprights to narrow the gap.
Mids continued to have most of the possession and centre Ed Dawson impressed with some searching runs. Too often, however, the style was over-elaborate in the conditions and handling and decision-making suffered. Time and again the excellent Mids front five set up platforms deep in the Blues’ 22 but a well-organised home defence denied the visitors the space they needed to exploit their superiority. They did infringe a number of times but Mids declined kicks at goal yet failed to profit from their ambition to create tries. Eventually Mids did score when the scrum drove over the Blues’ lone and scrum half Harry Walkden got the touchdown. McEvilly converted and the visitors were deservedly 10-5 ahead after 31 minutes.
The restart gave Blues a chance to play some rugby in the Mids half and they managed to get into the 22 but knocked on. Mids had comfortable control of the ball in the resulting scrum but then a clearing kick was charged down by the lively Blues scrum half Toto Odulata who crossed with glee. The score after 36 minutes was 10-10 and Blues must have found it unbelievable that two visits into the visitors’ half were sufficient to produce two tries and parity at the interval. This was after Mids had missed another good chance when the award of a penalty on the home 22 saw them kick to the corner but miss touch and butcher another opportunity.
In the second half Old Blues were much more in the game. On 49 minutes they drove a maul a long way and then recycled well to put winger Josh Irawo in for a try and the lead.
Mids then lost their fullback Ollie Fitzgerald to injury. He was their most experienced back on the day and had given them options, now reduced, with some excellent catches of high kicks and effective counter-attacking. Mids came back but their normally reliable line out play was absent on this occasion. The scrum was still performing, however, and they pressed the home line repeatedly. Blues denied them space by infringing on several occasions and did eventually suffer a yellow card. Mids continued to take scrums instead of penalty kicks and were extremely frustrated that Blues continued to concede penalties. Too often Mids made the wrong call, opting to take the ball from the back of the scrum instead of continuing the drive. Eventually, replacement prop Nathan Bacon, who had shown plenty of drive in the loose, forced his way over. McEvilly’s conversion attempt, which looked as if it might win the match for the visitors was narrowly wide. What followed was a nightmare for Mids. Well in control, deep in Blues half, they lost two of their own line outs in succession and Blues broke away at the death, Irawo delighting their incredulous supporters with the winning try.
The Midwives’ scrum looked shell-shocked at the end and prop Jacques Bryant, who has made tremendous strides as a young front row this season, typified their frustration, but should take heart from a tremendous performance in the tight.