Guildford 1st XV 29, Westcliff 22 – 20th January 2018
On Saturday, Guildford welcomed the high flying Westcliff to Broadwater with coach Dave Ward’s team looking to repeat their away victory from earlier in the season. Guildford were able to bring George Banks and club stalwart Bill Mairs into the front row but were impacted by the late withdrawal of full back Dan Paton through injury that caused a reshuffle in the back line that saw 19 year old Ben King step into the fly half role and Rory Andrews shift to the centre. With the second team game cancelled and an Under 10 curtain raiser before kick-off, Joe Garner and his team came out to a rousing reception with the noisy crowd enhanced by a number of cow bells.
The visitors kicked off the game playing downhill to the road and after a series of kicks, Guildford conceded a penalty for offside which was pushed wide to the left. Guildford restarted with a 22 drop out and in a subsequent phase of play conceded a second penalty for failing to retreat which this time was converted to put the hosts under early pressure at 0-3.
Guilford restarted from the half way, gathered the clearance kick and drilled the ball cross-field deep into the Westcliff 22 to give the visitors a line out on their own 5 yard line. The subsequent throw in was deemed not straight giving Guildford a scrum from which scrum half Bradley Smith who had a fine afternoon, ran from the base and crashed over near the touch line to open Guilford’s account. Hooper converted to make the score 7-3.
Within a few minutes of the restart, Guildford drove the ball deep into the opposition half through surging runs from Mairs and skipper Garner. The recycled ball was spun left where winger Paddy MacEnri hit a great line off of King to crash through the defence on the 22, beat the full back and cross for the unconverted try.
Guildford continued to apply pressure to the hosts through physical defence and clever kicks from Smith and Hooper forcing Westcliff to play the game deep in their half. After 25 minutes Guildford were able to secure possession in the Westcliff 22 and spin the ball the width of the field out to the far right where full back Nick Clarke went over by the touch line making the score 17-3 with 25 minutes gone, Hooper narrowly missing the conversion.
This score seemed to kick the visitors into life which Guildford matched with some tough defensive work from Andrews and Tom Devereux and included Hooper chasing down a Westcliff attacker and his support runner, pulling them down just yards from the line. Westcliff continue to hammer Guildford in their 22 with the home team unable to effectively clear their lines and after a number of penalties, Tom Devereux was shown yellow for slowing the ball down at a ruck.
Guildford continued to battle but on the stroke of half time the Westcliff full back went clear and was able to put his centre way for a converted try to make the score 17-10 at the break with the home side still a man down.
Westcliff started the second half strongly and pushed Guilford back into their 22, using their numerical advantage and a degree of patience to force a breakthrough, eventually crossing out wide for another converted score to bring the match level at 17 all after which Devereux returned to the field.
Now back at full strength Guildford deployed their bench and worked hard to stem Westcliff’s momentum, getting back on the front foot and continually pushing the visitors back down the slope. The increasingly vociferous crowd sensed the game shifting again and saw a ferocious counter ruck turn the ball over which allowed Smith to chip into the Westcliff 22 with one of a number of deft kicks from the base. After the defensive clearance, King made a superb break from the lineout with forwards following up and drive towards the Westcliff line, although the visitors forced the turn over and cleared to near half way.
Guildford continued to press, MacEnri gathering another Smith chip and making good ground before the home side recycled and Garner crashed over near the posts, taking carrying several of the visitors with him. The try was converted giving Guildford the lead again, 24-17.
From the restart, both sides continued to push hard with Guildford again forcing the visitors back down the slope, eventually spinning it wide to Hooper who swatted his opposite number away and crossed to make it 29-17 to the home team with only 6 minutes left on the clock.
The visitors scored an unconverted try shortly after the restart to make it 29-22 leaving a pulsating finish that saw Westcliff pound the home team back to their 22 and win a lineout on the Guildford 5 yard line. In what was the last play of the game, Garner rose to steal the throw and Alex Burrill secured the turn over to send the home support into a frenzy and secure the win for Guildford.
Afterwards, second row Rich Pollet said ‘the guys really stepped up today in defence against a physical Westcliff side. The support on the balcony was brilliant especially the cow bell crew, hopefully we can back it up with another 80 minutes performance here next week against Westcombe Park’.