1st XV WIN
Excellent all round game by Winch.
Gareth Martin’s new Winchester team emerged from the shadows with a convincing 34 -13 victory over Andover at North Walls. Forced into four changes the coach was delighted with the way the team gathered all the points. Talking after the game, in which he played a major role, he outlined calmly the way forward; “It is important for our progression as a club not to have a really emotional response to last week’s performance……. We need our game to be very controlled, this week and every week. We showed that today against a very good side, who defended well.”
The game started with both teams showing early season eagerness; the game was halted for forward passes and ball knocked on. Winch had to defend, as Andover who had won a pulsating game last week, initially looked to be in contention. Andy Waites their coach: “We looked good for the first quarter, but then played into their (Winchester’s) hands and eventually got punished.” Indeed, Andover took an early lead with a penalty for a Winchester scrum infringement.
Winchester emerged from these early exchanges with their forwards looking the most likely to break the deadlock. Campbell Ettinger, veteran leader for Winch, was delighted by the way his smaller, fitter pack played. “When we got ourselves together, we were really dominant; last season they completely blew us away!” Winchester did more than hold their own, they took four scrums against the head. The front row club of Alex Lee, Chris Searle and Jim Beavan took the game to Andover and by half time the opposition were looking ragged.
Winchester’s first try, came off the back of a scrum, in front of the posts as the three quarters, showing the perfect execution that had flickered briefly, found their form and wing Alex Bayliss touched down. Martin “In our earnestness to play well, we had snatched at the game. As soon as we settled into the rhythm of the game, it all came together; with massive contributions from players all over the park!”
The turning point came from an interception, breakaway storming run and touchdown by Josh Tolan which transformed the game. Tolan has been a real find for Winch, combining a rugby brain with real physical presence. Winch had been defending deep in their half, and this was the key moment that led to a phase of concerted dominance over the opposition. Winch started to believe.
The influence of their coach, playing a link role at number eight, contributed to a period of calm control that saw them keep the opposition on the back foot. The trys that followed, in the second half, came from the freedom that Winch’s forwards created for their backs to break free, showing the fluency that had earlier escaped them.
Greg Sullivan, Jake Hiscock and Tom Forster all had excellent second half displays and ‘Fozzy’ made penetrating runs through the opposition backs. From another successful scrum, Sullivan’s loop with Tolan, finally saw the ball into Forster’s hands and he was away down the wing for a third try. At 22 – 3, with Bayliss yellow carded and Winch at fourteen men, Andover reverted to their strength in the forwards. A pushover try brought them to eight points.
Winchester replied with three substitutions in the forwards; bringing on the ‘finishers’ to up the pressure. Debutant Alec Hiscock joined his brother Jake, for the first time in Winchester colours. Andover were clearly rattled as Matt Golding, again, cleaned them out in the lineout. They had a man sent off and Winchester pounced for the bonus point try. It came off a scrum ball, picked up by number eight Martin, and the backs sparkling interplay saw Sullivan force his way to the line.
The crowd were delighted, not simply by the score, but by the way wonderful offloads contributed to an all court game. This was basketball rugby. The result was completely assured as Winch scored again, after winning turnover ball from an opposition scrum. They moved it quickly to the right winger, Owen Cook, their youngest player. Cook showed the raw speed and agility that make him an excellent future prospect. He touched down in the corner and, after an indifferent afternoon with the boot, converted this the most difficult of conversions.
At this point the sun gave way to torrential rain, Andover snatched a late, but inconsequential forward try and the referee blew up with the score 34 – 13 to Winchester. As former club President Dai Henley said “What would the score have been if they had kept their composure in the early phase.”
We look forward to seeing if this resurgent Winchester side can continue with the controlled rugby that Gareth Martin has introduced. Next week’s game to newly promoted Eastleigh promises to be a gripping affair.
Tries : Bayliss, Tolan, Forster, Sullivan, Cook
Conversions: Cook x3
Tries: Nick Reed x2
15 T Forster
14 O Cook
13 J Hiscock
12 J Tolan
11 A Bayliss
10 G Sullivan
9 O Ashton
8 G Martin
7 R Becher
6 S Walker
5 M Golding
4 C Ettinger
3 J Beavan
2 C Searle
1 A Lee
16 T Williams
17 J Moore
18 A Hiscock