With four minutes remaining in Saturday’s away fixture against Brentwood, Guildford trailed by six points and were down to 14 men due to injuries in a brutal game, with their supporters calling for the sort of last minute comeback that has become a trademark of this season. By the time the referee blew the whistle for the end of the game, Guildford had scored twice through a penalty try and a breakaway by veteran Alex Jordan riding shotgun to secure a bonus point win and retain third spot in the London & South East Premiere league, the scoreline 32-38.
Guildford travelled to Brentwood shorn of a number of regulars, with Harry Phillips starting in the second row to allow Nick Brown to move to number 8 in the absence of inspirational skipper Joe Garner. With Ben Holden carrying an injury Tom Devereux started on the blind side with young Archie Hosking making up the back row on the open side again, fresh from last week’s heroics. Bill Mairs, who has started over 150 times in the front row for Guildford, wore the captain’s armband.
In the back line Kyle Brown started at scrum half, pushing Bradley Smith to 10 and Pete Hodgkinson to outside centre. Christian King started in the 12 shirt, with Tom Jeffery and Alex Jordan taking the wing berths and Kirsten Jones continuing to make a name for himself at fullback.
On a cold, clear day, Guildford kicked off underneath the hot sun to a Brentwood side that opened with clear intent, showing willingness to play multiple phases in their own 22 – and Guildford working hard to keep them there. After a high tempo first ten minutes Guildford opened the scoring, after a messy scrum on the left and several forward carries the ball was recycled and put wide for Hodgkinson to cut a nice line to run in from the 22. Kyle Brown added the conversion from out wide and Guildford were up 0-7.
Brentwood continued to play an entertaining brand of rugby at a lively pace with good handling from both backs and forward, matched by solid Guildford defence. When the Brentwood fly half chipped the defensive line, Guilford were awarded a penalty after a Brentwood player was deemed offside in the chase and Hodkinson stepped up to put the ball into the corner. After a succession of strong carries from the lineout the visitors again put the ball wide to Hodgkinson who found Jones running a strong line to cross for his first try for the club. Kyle Brown once again added the extras from out wide taking the score to 0-14.
Guildford added their third try from another penalty, opting to kick to the corner for an attacking lineout. Adam Bellamy at hooker hit his jumper well and Guildford mauled the ball over the line, Nick Brown claiming the try which went unconverted. The score seemed to lift the home side who responded with two tries and converted one to bring the score back to 12-19. It was Guildford who closed the half out however. After a series of phases deep in the Brentwood 22, Nick Brown picked and drove through the middle of the ruck for a trademark score from short range to secure a bonus point try on the stroke of half time. With his brother Kyle converting the try the teams turned around at half time with the scoreboard showing 12-26.
Brentwood started a ferocious fightback in the second half, scoring 2 penalties and 2 converted tries for 20 unanswered points to take the lead at 32-26. For the visitors the injuries continued to mount, Guildford emptying their bench and eventually dropping to 14 with Mairs, Hodgkinson and Bellamy all off the pitch. Under huge pressure, Guildford stuck to their patterns and were able to regain some balance, fighting back up the slope and winning a series of penalties that resulted in an attacking lineout on Brentwood’s line. Guildford were playing with huge heart, forcing another penalty that drew a yellow card to even the teams at 14 apiece. Brentwood continued to infringe and Guildford continued to trust their training ground plays, catching and driving another close lineout with the clock ticking down. With the maul formed and moving forward, the referee deemed Brentwood caused a deliberate collapse and awarded a penalty try that allowed Guildford to retake the lead at 32-33.
In the final minutes, an exhausted Brentwood threw everything they had at an equally shattered Guildford, who retained their composure and discipline despite a number of players finishing the game out of position. In the final play the home side bobbled the ball as their line was pressed, allowing Jordan to gather and run in from 80 yards to touch down and bring a pulsating encounter to a close at 32-38.
The leagues takes a break this weekend with the players taking a well-earned rest before a local derby on Saturday 17th when Sutton and Epsom visit Broadwater to take on a Guildford side who are developing a sold self-belief and cohesion that will serve them well as the season progresses.