Guildford hosted a strong Hertford side on Saturday for their first home game of the year, but after an even first half were unable to match the visitors physicality late in the game and went down 11-45. With availability again proving challenging coach Dave Ward made a number of changes from the team he fielded last week, with the increasingly impressive Jonny Burden coming in at fly-half and Dan Paton starting at full back after over a year out with injury for his 50th first team appearance. In the pack, Courtney Raymond started in the 2nd row in place of stalwart Nick Brown, with Sam Kettle and Archie Hosking on either side of Number 8 and skipper Joe Garner in the back row.
The game kicked off with Guildford playing up the slope and both sides started brightly showing a willingness to run the ball in decent conditions. It was Hertford who struck first, kicking a penalty to the corner and then driving over from the subsequent lineout. From the kick off, Hertford cleared their lines only as far as Paton, who made yards and then put the ball wide, passing through several pairs of hands before Christian King found his way through the defence to touch down and even the score at 5-5.
Guildford followed this up with successive penalties from Burden, converting near identical kicks for Guildford to take a 11-5 lead after 25 minutes. Hertford responded well and when they were awarded a penalty on the Guildford line, delayed a quick tap and caught the defence napping for a soft try, 11-10. On the stroke of half time, Hertford scored again from an attacking lineout, with Guildford unable to pick up the runners from a training ground move, allowing the Hertford tight head to crash over for a converted try, 11-17. At this point Guildford were matching their hosts and changed ends anticipating a well contested second half. The visitors, however, had other ideas.
After a difficult start to their season including a loss in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season, Hertford have been on a good form in the league and showed why. Employing big runners on clever lines and a high tempo, Hertford scored 4 unanswered tries in the second half, all converted. Guildford travel to Tunbridge Wells next weekend with a full strength squad and will need all of Garner’s leadership to register their first win of the year and look to build some momentum at a critical part of the season.