After narrowly beating Newbury in the first game of 2019 the Gazelles made the short trip up the A3 to local rivals Wimbledon knowing only a win would keep them in the hunt for the title.
Having struggled for try bonus points this year it was important to attempt put this right against a team who looking at league standings should have been an easier target. Guildford started strongly quickly gaining territory and possession, unfortunately as in previous games although chances were being created the final piece of the puzzle didn’t drop into place and Guildford remained frustrated at 0-0. Fortunately for Guildford Wimbledon really struggled to get into the game, the Gazelles were dominating line-outs and holding their own in the scrum, this alongside great defensive pressure either meant Wimbledon coughing up possession or kicking the ball away, this scenario led to Guildford’s first try as a kick was returned by Emma Swadlo into Wimbledon’s 22 good recycling by backs and forwards finally allowed Ruth Harper to bundle over near the posts, this was converted by Kate Jenkins for a 7-0 lead.
Buoyed by this the Gazelles went in search of more but were pinned back by a resilient Wimbledon, having escaped a couple of close attacks the Gazelles launched an unplanned attack from their own 22, a wayward clearance kick from Jenkins was fielded by Swadlo who having beaten her defender scampered down field, although caught just short of the oppositions 22 great support from skipper Gracie New allowed quick recycled ball and Spencer Hastings crashed through disorganised Wimbledon defence for the games second try. 0-14.
Immediately from kick off Guildford were back on the attack, Strong running from forwards Becki Simmons and Zoo Overton got the Gazelles excellent field position and the Gazelles backs finished it off with Players Player Georgia Thomas carving through the midfield to take the score to 0-21.
With only seconds of the half remaining and in their 22 the Gazelles could have been forgiven for kicking the ball out however today was the day for bonus points so skipper Gracie New took a quick tap, with Thomas following closely she took the tip and soared into Wimbledon’s half, after being half stopped she offloaded to the supporting Overton who after being caught just short of the line popped to Swadlo who dove over for the Gazelles 4th try.
The Gazelles hindered themselves early in the second half with a few too many infringements and finally Wimbledon got a score of their own, but this would be the last time they crossed the whitewash.
Instead the Gazelles looked to their bench to provide new impetus a call which Anna Clarke, Hannah Trafford and Ella Russell answered gleefully, all carrying strongly gave a good platform for the backs to exploit holes and drawings penalties. From one such penalty the Gazelles drive towards the line from a lineout, although held up short Charlie Thornberry-Walker burrowed her way over for the bonus point try, taking the score to 5-31.
This was not the end either another well executed lineout led to space on the blindside which New scurried down selling a dummy to score a 6th.
Guildford’s 7th was finished by Anna Clarke but came from excellent team play from all players who ran hard cleared rucks and bombarded Wimbledon till they ran out of players.
The Gazelles final score came from the final play of the game and was nearly identical to how the first half ended, a quick tap from inside their own half but this time New finished it off herself leaving the final score 5-48.
Coach Ross Brooker commented after that he was over the moon with the performance, the cutting edge which had sometimes been missing this season was there all to be seen, the forwards ran hard and with great support and the backs were direct and clinical.
It puts the Gazelles in a great position to challenge for the title and with the visit of league leaders Cullompton up next a victory for the Gazelles in that game would mean the title will be theirs to lose.