Guildford started their season with a thrilling win from the last kick of the game down at their Broadwater home on Saturday, after a ferocious fightback in the second half against league newcomers Chingford. It has been a busy offseason for Guilford and Dave Ward’s squad reflected this with a number of players making their first team debuts, Pete Hodgkinson, twin brothers Nick and Kyle Brown, Courtney Raymond, Tom Jeffery and Andy Jones as a late replacement for the injured Luke Rust. Guildford were led out by the familiar face of skipper Joe Garner in his 50th appearance for the club.
Chingford kicked off to Guildford who were playing up the hill. The scoring was opened on the ten-minute mark after a smart turnover from Garner, who was able to make yards before putting the ball wide to support runner Nick Brown who ran in from 30 yards with brother Kyle pushing the conversion wide. Chingford hit back quickly, moving the ball from a lineout to the right hand touchline and back before putting a strong runner through a defensive gap ten yards out for a converted score to give the visitors the lead 5-7. Guildford followed up with a period of pressure on the Chingford line, but were unable to add to the score, eventually turning the ball over to allow Chingford to clear, putting the home side back into their own 22. From an ensuing lineout and after several phases, the visiting fly-half sold a smart dummy and stepped through the rushing defence to go through for a second converted score, which Chingford followed up with a penalty for offside to put Guildford 5-17 down. A few minutes later, Chingford’s full back was able to run from his own half through several poor tackles to add his side’s third try to put Guildford in a 19 point hole on the half hour mark, bringing back memories of the struggles of last season and threatening to dash the work done over the summer. The home wide were able to regroup and after kicking a penalty to the opposition 22, drove the ensuing lineout before releasing the ball to pivot Hodgkinson who passed to Alex Jordan coming off his blind side wing. AJ burst through the defence and offloaded to Nick Brown who was able to put the ball wide to winger Jeffery who took two defenders over the line from five yards out for his first try for the Club, giving Guildford some momentum as the half time whistle went. Brown missed his second shot on goal to leave the score 10-24.
Half time saw the arrival of Dave Ward from his Harlequins duties and saw another debut, of Harry Kettle on the flank, and veteran Bill Mairs on for Matt Poole in the front row. Both sides started the second half brightly, but Guildford’s strong defensive effort pushed the visitors back and forced them to concede a penalty, which Hodgkinson kicked to the corner giving Guildford an attacking lineout on Chingford’s five-yard line. Guildford secured the lineout and a powerful driving maul saw Tom Hickey touch down in the corner, with Kyle Brown slotting the extras, 17-24. After the restart, some indiscipline by the visitors allowed Hodgkinson to put the ball into the same corner but this time the resulting driving maul was collapsed earning a yellow card for Chingford. The penalty saw another lineout from which Guildford were awarded a free kick which Garner took quickly to dive over for a converted try to bring the scores level. The tied game stung Chingford who were able to build a period of sustained pressure on the Guildford line, eventually allowing them to cross the whitewash in the far corner for a converted try to take the visitors into a 24-31 lead with Guildford needing to score twice to win. The hosts continued to work hard as the visitors tired with Hodgkinson pulling the strings from fly half eventually forcing Chingford to concede a penalty in their own half, which was pushed to the near corner for a lineout. Guildford again drove the ball, showing training ground coordination to go over for their fourth try and Nick Brown’s second, brother Kyle converting to again level the scores and bring the bonus point. As the whistle beckoned, Guildford won a final penalty which Kyle Brown lined up knowing it was the last play of the game, but had to wait for several minutes to take it due to an extended injury delay. With the crowd holding their breath, Nick calmly slotted the three pointer to give Guildford the win 34-31 with a maximum five league points and cap a memorable debut for the Australian twins.