Watford registered their first win of the season following a strong showing against Staines.
Despite still missing a number of players, Watford were able to welcome back some of their absentees and field arguably our strongest side of the season. Hammill returned to skipper the team whilst Josh, Ricky and Clenners also all made their comebacks after varying lengths of absence. This meant we fielded a full, strong bench which would hopefully prove the difference having fallen off in the closing stages of the previous few games.
The opening exchanges were fairly cagey. Despite Staines having the size advantage in the tight five, Bees Ricky & Radish more than stood up to their opposite numbers with Watford having the slight advantage in the scrum. The pack worked the early phases well, carrying hard and direct whilst solid work at the breakdown ensured a clean supply of ball to Jamesy and Dunners in the half backs. Watford’s pressure soon told, Josh hitting the upright with a penalty for a Staines infringement at the breakdown. The home side were not to be denied though, Dunners stepping inside the visitors rush defence before outpacing the fullback to score in the corner.
Staines came back hard and missed a penalty of their own after Watford were penalised for not rolling away from the breakdown. Unfortunately for the home side, a poor chase from the resultant drop out gave Staines a two on one which was well executed to bring the scores level. Unfortunately for us Ricky was injured in the build-up and was forced to depart, JR coming on to replace him, leading to a re-shuffle in the front row. With Watford finding their feet, we gave away another kickable penalty which was this time converted for 5-8.
With the home supporters fearing the worst, Watford bucked the trend of previous matches and fought back. A penalty went to the corner, and from the 22 Martin Lee dotted down following an absolute steamroller of a maul. Extras missed, Watford back in front by two.
This revitalised our guests, who looked to gain a foothold in the game by bringing their big ball carriers to the forefront. Having arguably been bullied out of matches by such tactics in previous games this season, this probably wasn’t such a bad idea. Fortunately this is a Watford side who looked to have turned a corner and some absolutely monstrous hits came in, notably from Bees, Chris, Dunners and Hammill. Staines were beginning to flag in the face of such committed defence as shown by the number of players leaving the field and it was from another dominant hit that we scored our third. Martin Lee dislodged the ball in a tackle on Watford’s 22, Gordon scooping it up before haring down the field. Unfortunately Tom was scragged, fortunately the Watford support was up quickly and some brisk hands put Bees in the corner for a cracking breakaway try. Extras missed, half time Watford 15 vs 8 Staines.
As expected, Staines came out hard in the second half and earned another penalty which was converted to bring them within four points. These were to be the last points they scored in the game.
Watford were in the ascendancy for the remainder of the match, Josh scoring a deserved first of the aftenroon after more good work from the forwards. Despite the reshuffle necessitated by Ricky’s injury, the bigger Staines pack were tiring with Watford becoming more and more dominant at the scrum. Allied to this, the oppositions increasing frustration was causing them to make mistakes at crucial times thus easing pressure on a Watford side who seemed to finally have re-discovered their mojo.
Staines tempers finally boiled over, their outside centre rather loudly taking exception to a refereeing decision and seeing yellow for his remonstrations. Watford capitalised on his absence with Josh’s second score, the centre slotting his kick for a personal haul of 12 points. In what was the icing on the cake, with 2 minutes remaining the home side absolutely demolished a Staines scrum, Dunlop slotting the three to take us home and dry.
A far more accomplished performance from a Watford side which has been threatening such a result for most of the season without putting points on the board. With further players to return and a bit of momentum, there is no reason we can’t push on. Absolutely crucial that there is no let-up in training this week, despite there being no game – this weekend showed the value of two well attended, intense sessions.
As an aside, it was great to see the Staines players stick around for a bit and enjoy a few beers. Good bunch of lads.
MOTM – Dunners. Moved from 7 to 10 and didn’t look at all out of place. Marshalled the game brilliantly and capped off with a fine try.
WOTW – Stu Hall. I wasn’t listening but seems he kicked the ball out and it came of an oppo player…? Will have to double check!