Guildford Gazelles 19, Wimbledon 7 – 28th January 2018
On Sunday the Guildford Gazelles welcomed Wimbledon to Broadwater and having beaten Wimbledon earlier in the season and after toppling league leaders Newbury in the previous game, Guildford were optimistic although the usual immaculate first fifteen pitch was showing signs of wear and tear going to set up a challenging and scrappy affair.
Guildford started unusually slowly and with Wimbledon applying pressure at scrum time and through their kicking game they dominated territory early on however the home sides defence remained resolute.
The game began to swing back and forth, neither side taking a firm grip on the day’s proceedings. After another challenging defensive set close to the Gazelles’s line, Guildford managed to turn the ball over, gaining a penalty and quick thinking by captain Gracie New lead to a quick tap penalty from under her own posts, feeding the ball to fullback Zan Hudson who unleashed winger Hattie Roberts, escaping to the halfway line Guildford retained the ball with strong powerful forward runs which again caused Wimbledon to infringe and another penalty awarded to Guildford. With the momentum in the Gazelles favour skipper New again took a quick tap and again the ball found its way to Roberts who beat 3 defenders to score under the posts, conversion by Kate Jenkins.
This seemed to galvanise Wimbledon. Going back to their strong kicking game and their intermittent dominance at the scrum they again found themselves in Guildford’s 22. After repeatedly bombarding the Gazelles line, it took a show and go from the Wimbledon ten to finally crack the Gazelles defence and score close to the posts. This was converted and half time quickly followed with the score 7-7.
Things started brighter in the second half for the Gazelles. Trusting their patterns, finally competing successfully at scrum time and disrupting Wimbledon’s line outs. The Gazelles moved down the pitch. With Jenkins pulling the strings at fly half, Guildford got the opportunity for a catch and drive close to Wimbledon’s line. The Gazelles line out has been one of their main weapons of attack all season and clean line out ball caught by Spencer Hastings allowed Guildford to charge towards Wimbledon’s line. This maul seemed to be illegally taken down, however the referee did not have a clear view and Wimbledon had a lucky escape. This escape was only temporary however, a missed touch finder from the Wimbledon ten allowed Vicky McEvoy to feed the ball to Hudson, dancing around three players, she fed Roberts on the opposite wing, who managed to evade five would-be tacklers to score in the corner. Wimbledon’s spirits could not be dampened and again they attacked with their threatening centres and wingers and only some last ditch tackling from Hudson spared Guildford’s blushes. Guildford regained procession with a scrum in their own twenty two. A strong carry from number 8 Naomi Keddie drew the attention of three Wimbledon defenders. Keddie managed to slip the ball to scrum half New who cantered down field. Supported well by the outside backs, Guildford recycled the ball to Hastings breaking through the line, she managed to power past the fullback to score under the sticks, again converted by Jenkins making the score 19-7.
Although the game had 10mins left the wearing pitch had taken its toll on both teams and there were no further scores in the game. The only matter of note, a yellow card for flanker Ruth Harper after persistent team infringements by the Gazelles.
Player of the match went to Keddie for strong running and resolute defending all game however special mentions were awarded to the skipper New, fullback Hudson and prop Sarah Sanderson whose work at the set piece and in the loose was widely commended. Coach Stu Feelings noted at the end of the game that although we wanted the bonus point win, under such testing pitch conditions and the late changes due to injuries we are happy to have come away with a victory against a tough opposition.