They must be favourites for promotion to National League rugby.
Their 2nd team has a great deal of physical presence and experience, and lies 2nd in this Shield 2 competition. So, in spite of a win in the corresponding fixture at the end of October, and having enjoyed a run of 4 wins in a row, it was always going to be tough on the youthful visiting team. And the more so because the travelling Southend boys were missing a substantial number of regulars, predominantly through injury. This meant they were not nearly as confident as they might otherwise have been, particularly given a couple of players being selected out of position.
On the plain to the West of the Chiltern Hills the wind was blowing, and the famed red kites were soaring and diving close overhead. With the wind and the sun on Southend’s backs, they attacked with purpose.
The forced personnel changes meant a lack of cohesion and, frustratingly, a number of passes went astray or were knocked on. Too many penalties conceded meant territory was lost and the ground had to be regained.
However, after some 15 minutes a home player transgressed such that he was given a yellow card by the referee and 10 minutes of spectating. An attacking lineout was well won, followed by a good drive, but Southend were held up and then turned over when just a metre short. The pressure was relieved but, 5 minutes later, another thrusting attack, and neat lay-off, saw big 2nd row Sam Fombo
coming through at pace and breaking the defence to score to the left of the posts. ‘OJ’ Piper converted to put the visitors into the lead, 0-7.
The experience of the Oxfordshire side, and their ability to play to the conditions on their own patch, enabled them to come back into the game and apply pressure themselves. Losing captain Pat Reed to a pulled hamstring didn’t help Southend’s cause and, 5 minutes before the break, Chinnor were awarded a try wide out on the left after some close forward play. Southend had their doubts about the legitimacy of the score but there was no neutral touch judge to assist the official, who was not best placed. The conversion attempt narrowly missed and the score remained 5-7 at half-time.
The few travelling supporters felt their team had not done enough with the elements in their favour and so it transpired. After just 5 minutes of the 2nd period the men in black moved into the lead with a simple penalty from in front of the posts. The Southend youngsters continued to battle but, around 15 minutes into the half Chinnor scored again from a drive following a scrum. This time the conversion from wide out left was good and the score moved on to 15-7.
Shortly after, with the home scrum beginning to dominate, and their fly half using the wind to full effect, another try came, despite some valiant defence. The conversion failed so it was now 20-7.
With the wind easing somewhat, and a couple of personnel changes, Southend began to press more. They enjoyed a period of sustained pressure and came close to scoring again after an hour’s play. Unfortunately, the ball was lost at a critical moment and Chinnor managed to clear their lines.
Back came Southend and they thought they had scored, in exactly the same position, and circumstances, as the home side when they scored in the first half. Unfortunately for the visitors, the official saw it differently. Things then got a little heated, particularly following a couple of late tackles on Southend’s diminutive scrum half Harry Branch
. Some fists were thrown and Southend’s number 8 was sin-binned, but rather surprised he walked off alone!
In the last 15 minutes Chinnor began to turn the screw and, using their greater bulk and know-how, scored two late tries. Another yellow card for Southend didn’t help so, when moving quickly right, the home side out-flanked the make-shift defence to score in the right corner. The conversion failed but, to add salt into Southend’s wounds, a 5th try was added just before the end. This time it was the Chinnor open-side flanker breaking through some now understandably tired tackling to score near the posts, enabling an easy conversion.
In the end, a disappointing and, one could say, un-deserved score differential. The Southend lineout was competitive throughout, and they had a reasonable share of possession overall. 2nd phase play was generally good, as was the tackling, but too many execution errors, and an understandable lack of organisation at times, was the visitors downfall.
Your correspondent, who started to learn his trade in this team 46 years ago(!), was impressed by their determination not to be intimidated by some gnarled old heads up front. I feel confident that these young men will have learned from the experience and be better for it. The future’s certainly bright!