Final Score 31 – 25
Guildford got off to a great start to 2018 with a bonus point for Joe Garner and his men at their Broadwater home against Southend, fielding a strong side that welcomed several regulars back from niggling injuries after the Christmas break.
Southend started the match and kicked off downhill to the home team and Guildford were into their stride almost immediately. From a Southend box kick, Guildford secured possession on the half way and spun left to Hooper who gathered his own clever chip ahead and made ground before popping to Garner in support who continued the momentum with a strong run deep into the opposition 22 before offloading to Pollet on his left who touched down for Guildford’s first try, with Hooper adding the extras to make it 7-0.
After the restart Southend won a penalty and pushed Guildford back into their 22, but a knock on gave the ball back to the home side who were able to build some momentum back up the field. After a scrum and several phases going right, play swung back left and Hooper made a clean break in the centre, accelerating through a gap and making good distance before putting full back Paton in for their second try on the ten minute mark.
The restart again saw Southend win a penalty after a strong run from their Number 8 Chris Shields who impressed with his carrying all afternoon. From the subsequent line out, Guildford ripped the ball away in a tackle but knocked it on giving a scrum to Southend on the home 22. Guildford were able to turn the scrum to win the ball and with the ensuing counter attack Guildford swept up the field with Harty leading the way for what may be the try of their season, a series of inter-passes and great support lines eventually saw Hooper go over on the left for an unconverted try, his second of the afternoon, to make it 17-0.
Almost immediately, Guildford scored their fourth try securing them a bonus point on the 22 minute mark. Kicking a penalty to the corner, hooker Hickey hit his man in the line out and the home side drove over the line. Looking for work, winger MacEnri had joined the maul and was credited with the try.
Following this, Southend finally got on the board through a penalty from fly half Navas to make it 24-3, which then followed up with a try to make it 24-10 to Guildford at half time.
The break seemed to energise the visitors who pressed hard to open the second half with Shields and second row Maggiolo repeatedly hammering the Guildford defence and the Southend backs looking to play more expansively. After a series of phases in the home half, this led to a short range try to Southend which went unconverted to make it 24-15.
Both sides continued to press when in possession but suffered from errors and indiscipline that prevented either building any strong momentum. At the hour mark, with Guildford attacking, Southend conceded a yellow card for a deliberate knock on right on their own line that had the home supporters calling for a penalty try. Guildford kept their heads, kicked to the corner and their pack again caught and drove the line out and secured a deserved score, with Hickey at the bottom of a pile of bodies getting his name on the scoresheet, Hooper again adding the extras to make it 31-15.
To their credit Southend continued to battle and were rewarded with their third try when prop Briggs burrowed over from short range. Another Southend try on the whistle secured the visitors their bonus point, but Guilford will take heart from this win as head coach Dave Ward prepares this week for an away trip to Sidcup on Saturday.
On the adjacent pitch, Guildford 2nd XV continued their excellent season, winning a friendly fixture against London Cornish 29-17 thanks and tries from Cutting, West, Wallis and a brace from Jordan Gomez.