Old Freemens 32 - Old Mid-Whitgiftian 26
Midwives” push for promotion suffered a setback at Ashtead on Saturday when their bogey team Old Freemen’s once again belied their league position with a powerful opening half hour which knocked a strong Mids’ side back to playing second fiddle.
Playing up the slope, the home team dominated possession and retained and recycled with purpose. After 3 minutes centre Sam Tresadern completed a fine move with a try in the corner which was converted by fly half Gus Noble. Freemen kept up the pressure and on 13 minutes prop Alex Moddie crossed for another 7 pointer. Mids were frantic in their response and made too many basic errors to capitalise on what possession they had. Flanker Martin Simmons put in a huge number of tackles and lock Matt Shillabeer was carrying powerfully, but too many of their colleagues were not at the races.
Eventually Mids found some stability after a fine individual piece of play by right winger James Jenkins who brilliantly juggled a difficult pass to keep the ball, speed down the line, kick infield and then tackle the last defender to allow the Mids support to drive over and set a promising platform. Unfortunately the ball went loose but at least Mids were now in the game. The visitors’ scrum was showing signs of getting on top and a maul was driven a full 20 metres, quite a contrast to one that had gone even further backwards in Freemen’s period of ascendancy. Jenkins then blocked down a clearing kick behind the home line but the ball bounced for the hosts. Mids laid siege to Freemen’s line and were patient, knowing that their scrum was on top. Eventually they did push over for No. 8 George Daniels to get the touchdown. Fly half Dan Crouch added the extras and Mids expected to go in at the interval with a manageable deficit. Some loose kicking in midfield, however, allowed Freemen’s to break free and only a fine tackle by full back Harry Wilson prevented a try. Mids were now offside at the ruck and Noble slotted the kick for a 17-7 lead for Freemen’s at half time.
Any hopes Mids had of getting closer at the start of the second period were quickly blown away when Freemen produced a sparkling move to go right and a fine unload in the tackle gave winger Henry Swindell a try in the corner. Noble’s conversion attempt came back off the post. On 52 minutes Freemen extended their lead when number 8 Grant McDonald picked up at the base of the scrum and was allowed to generate enough momentum to power his way through the defence to the posts for another 7 pointer and a seemingly unassailable lead of 29-7.
To Mids’ credit they did not lie down and produced a golden chance when they rucked their opponents off the ball and drove for the line, but then spoiled things with a loose pass. Daniels was now playing inspired rugby and replacement Alex Scott had injected some pace into Mids’ play. The visitors continued to press but lost two attacking lineouts .
Persistence eventually paid when a fine break through the middle by centre Andy Dean found Jenkins on his shoulder and the winger did very well to shrug off a tackle and score by the posts.
Mids came again and camped on the line but were held up when looking like scoring. Freemen were defending desperately and eventually scrum half Jake Bacon took a quick penalty and dived over for a deserved try. He had tried quick penalties in good positions on three occasions previously but had been called back. Now Crouch added the points with a disputed conversion and it was 29-21.
Mids were now in full flow and repeatedly running the ball at their opponents. Crouch put in a searching kick which bounced well for Wilson and he took the opportunity in style to reduce the deficit to 29-26. Mids now had one minute left to steal the game. From the kick off they gallantly ran the ball nearly to half way but were then penalised for holding on and Noble sealed their fate with a fine kick from the 10 metre line. In a most entertaining game Freemen were worthy winners but Mids’ had regained their pride having looked as if they were in for a real drubbing early on.