Guildford achieved a dramatic come-from-behind victory against league leaders Wimbledon on Saturday, scoring a converted try at the death to secure a bonus point victory by the slimmest of margins, 28-27 to reclaim third position in the league. After last week’s disappointing loss to Westcliffe, Dave Ward’s squad were under pressure and responded in the best possible way, scoring four tries in front of a roaring crowd at their Broadwater home.
The team-sheet showed two new faces this week, with hooker Adam Bellamy on loan from Rosslyn Park showing his class around the field and 18-year-old Archie Hosking making an excellent debut at open-side. Archie is a product of Guildford’s youth system and is the first player born since the millennium to play for Guildford’s first team. The backline had another reshuffle but is starting to look familiar, the off-season recruits blending well with older heads under the watchful eye of player-coach Pete Hodgkinson at fly half.
Guildford kicked off playing up the hill and were the first to trouble the scorers with Ben Holden’s thundering run causing scrambling defenders to infringe, Alex Jordan converting to take a 3-0 lead. Wimbledon responded after the restart, driving deep into Guildford’s half and when the vising 10 switched the attacked to the blind side, he found his second row in support who crashed over from short range for a try converted by former Guildford full back Freddy Hooper, who switched the Wimbledon in the off-season. The game continued at a frenetic pace with both sides looking to run the ball and big carriers crashing into defensive lines. After Guildford won a penalty and secured an attacking lineout in the opposition 22, they were able to work a number of phases before Hodgkinson put the ball wide to Jordan who went over unopposed in the far corner for Guildford to take back the lead, 8-7. Wimbledon responded to the challenge like league leaders and were able to add two further scores before half-time with one conversion, the scoreboard showing the home side down by 8-19 as the referee blew for the end of the first half.
Guildford came out after the half time break knowing they had to score first and did just that. From a scrum penalty they were able to kick to the corner for an attacking lineout. Although the driving mail was well defended, skipper Joe Garner was able to break away from the pack and take a defender over the line for an unconverted score to bring Guildford back in touch at 13-19. Soon after the home side crossed for their third try after Guilford turned over the ball with some strong defensive work. Guildford generated momentum with several strong carries and a number of phases before Kyle Brown, on at scrum half, stepped past two defenders to score out wide for another unconverted try, 18-19. The visitors again came back, converting a penalty and then Hooper adding their fourth try, which he was crucially unable to convert, to take a 9 point lead at 18-27. Guildford have shown fine resilience this season and continued to battle late in the game. A penalty after a high tackle allowed the home side to move to within 6 points, after which they threw everything at Wimbledon, with big wing Tom Jeffery bundled into the corner flag on one side and Jordan showing great pace but being unable to get the final pass away on the other touchline. As the clock ticked down, Guildford patiently worked their way into the Wimbledon 22 before Nick Brown burst free from a breakdown, brushing past a defender to touch down under the posts. Nick’s twin brother Kyle stepped up to take the conversion for the win, remarkably for the second time this season, and calmly slotted the extras to send the crowd into a frenzy. Hosking earned the man-of-the-math award for a combative and assured display in which he did not look out of place in high-class company. Joe Garner and his team were rightly elated after the game, but will be unable to rest with a tricky away trip to Brentwood on the cards next weekend. It was a double delight for coach Ward, on duty and vice-captain for Harlequins, who secured a premiership victory over Bath.