Old Mid Whitgiftian 12 - East Grinstead 48
The final league game of the season for Old Mids saw them face runaway league leaders East Grinstead who fielded a largely reserve side because of Cup and other commitments. The strength in depth of the visitors was evident, however, in their powerful, speedy back line which dominated the afternoon.
Mids started well enough, retaining and recycling possession three times before a kick ahead was fielded by Grinstead winger Filimoni Kuruyawa who took on the defence, skipped through several tackles and scored with only 57 seconds on the clock. Fly half Rick McKenna converted for a 7-0 lead.
The visitors kept up the pressure and after 14 minutes a dropped home pass gave them possession in the loose which they exploited well to put in McKenna in the corner for their second try. The onslaught was maintained but Midwives defended well until the 20th minute when Gs centre James Keyworth found a gap for another try, converted by McKenna.
Mids eventually surged into the visitors’ half with some good continuity but this came to nothing when they were turned over and the ball was cleared. A loose kick was now charged down by Grinstead and their eager backs transferred the ball right for Kuruyawa to notch his second try.
Back came Mids but a long clearing kick by the visitors was knocked on and from the scrum Gs were clinical in executing a fine backs move and a fifth try through centre Nathan Daly.
The hosts eventually powered into the oppositions 22 and just before half time Russell Jones, completing his tenth full season for the First XV without missing a match, got the touchdown after some effective mauling by his pack. The score at the interval was 31-5 to East Grinstead.
It was evident that the Mids forwards had been doing very well and that they needed to keep things tight if they were to prosper. The front row was well balanced with hooker Jon Beaney slotting in well and enabling props Nathan Bacon and Gareth Moss to do their work. Beaney was throwing well to an organised lineout and Moss and Bacon carried with purpose. It was not surprising, therefore, that coach Peter Knott changed the game plan at half time in an effort to keep the ball away from the opposition’s deadly back line. Sure enough Mids were straight into the opposing 22 in the 41st minute and, after some powerful scrummaging and mauling, Jones was over the line only to be judged to have dropped the ball while touching down. The visitors lost a player to a yellow card for poor discipline. Mids kept the pressure on and looked to have found a way of reducing the deficit but were then penalised needlessly and Grinstead cleared to half way. An excellent lineout set up their attack and a break through the middle enabled them to send Kuruyawa through for his third try and further disappointment for the hosts.
Mids did not stick to their strengths and, though winning plenty of ball, let it out and lost possession to allow winger Lewis Harte to run clear for another Grinstead try. The visitors made the score 48 -5 after 64 minutes when Daly scored his second try after Dan Crouch who had played well, though out of position at scrum half, was harshly penalised.
To their credit Mids kept pounding away and were rewarded when sustained pressure on the Grinstead line saw Jones surge forward and set up a platform for Crouch to join in as an extra forward and reach to place the ball on the line for a dramatic score. He converted himself and the Old Boys, though well beaten, came away with their pride intact.
Apart from those mentioned, Dean Gardner was a tower of strength in the pack and Iain Munro grafted well in a tough match. Matt Shields, put in at the deep end at fly half, acquitted himself well and in general the team showed plenty of spirit despite the travails of a dreadful season. If this spirit is maintained for the new campaign Midwives should be alright though they will have to be a bit meaner and take some more risks. Other sides played more ‘on the edge’ according to Knott and this season it was significant that Mids players were yellow carded on only two occasions all year, an admirable statistic in terms of fair play but sadly, in the real world of rugby, an indicator that they were not worldly enough!