Woodford seal Promotion with Extra Time Victory
A close encounter for Woodford who edged North West rivals Hemel in the promotion playoff for London 1 North.
Hemel 13 – Woodford 16 (After Extra Time)
Woodford survived a late extra time onslaught from Hemel as a 13 – 16 victory gave the Highams' men promotion back to London 1 North flowing two seasons in London 2.
A tense affair from the start, these two evenly matched sides fought exceptionally hard but it was the Highams men who scraped through owing to an extra time penalty from scrum half James Page.
Hemel started the brighter of the two and were awarded a series of early penalties. A poor kick for touch was fielded by Hyett, but a mix up with winger Lloyd led to the Hemel winger seizing on the loose ball and scoring their opening try in the corner. The conversion was missed and this was to prove Hemels' downfall.
Woodford were beginning to dominate the set piece and in particular at scrum time where Hemel were constantly overpowered. This led to a first penalty for Page who converted. Woodford were beginning to establish themselves and it felt only a matter of time before they would take the lead.
This nearly came following a searing break from prop Eleftheriou who ran fully 40 metres before being pulled down 5 metres short of the try line. However, Woodford would not have to wait long for their score and it came from a pushover scrum with Connell being the beneficiary of outstanding work from the Woodford pack.
Page converted to give Woodford a 10 – 5 lead and Woodford had 2 penalty opportunities to extend their lead but Page uncharacteristically missed both.
With the half drawing to a close, Hemel went on the attack once more and kicked a penalty themselves to bring the home side to within 2 points of their rivals. It should be noted that it was from this penalty that Moody deservedly won the Dick of The Day award for running up and kicking the ball away when the Hemel kicker had placed it on the kicking tee. The mind games from Moody worked: the Hemel kicker did not convert another kick for the duration.
The second half was a tight affair with neither side really able to dominate. Woodford were still on top in the scrum but Hemel in the lineout. Woodford gave Page another chance to extend their lead and he did so on around the 60 minute mark.
Hemel had numerous penalty attempts but with the wind causing the kickers problems all day, he failed with all of them. It looked as though time was running out for Hemel but they kept the ball for an extended period of time and worked the ball out wide very quickly for their winger to score their second try of the day to bring the sides level with around 5 minutes remaining. Hemel still had time to miss a kick with a minute left that surely would have won them the tie.
Woodford had it all to do in extra time as Hemel were safe in the knowledge that if the scores remained level, Woodford would lose on try count. Page had other ideas and in the second period, kicked a penalty from the touchline that would ultimately give Woodford the win.
Hemel though fought until the end and were only denied a winning try with a last ditch tackle from Newbury that led to the Hemel second row knocking on over the line in the final play.
Woodford celebrated but knew that it was an exceptionally tight game that Hemel were unlucky to lose. However, the Woodford pack will take the credit for overpowering their opposite men and the backline defended manfully, limiting Hemel to very few opportunities. In a game as tense as this, a great deal of credit must go to kicker Page, who held his nerve to give Woodford the points they needed to go up a division.
Man of the match and coach Murphy was delighted with the team performance which saw Woodford extend their unbeaten run to 17 games which is a fantastic achievement.
5. Saull (C)