Salisbury 21 – 19 Guildford
Saturday 9th December 2023
Wind and Scrum
Another new ground for us to visit this season, Salisbury. We arrived after a long bus trip to a ground that was bathed in sunshine but had a strong wind blowing straight down the pitch. This had the hallmark of a classic game of two halves.
There were again several changes, both positional and in personnel, from last week’s team against Chichester. Notable was the return of Ieuan Jones at scrum half after a long time out due to Injury and Joe Garner also made a welcome return to the second row. Alex Hankin took on the role of captain on his return to the side, Jonny Burden moving back to his outside centre berth and Luke Outhwaite moved to fullback in place of the injured captain Rob Voller. Alex Jordan, returning from the Dubai 7s, was on the bench. It looks like Rob could be out for a while, we wish him a speedy recovery and Ollie Milward was also absent as he is still carrying an elbow injury from last week, but we hope to see him back soon.
Playing in the blue shirts this week in front of a crowd of over a hundred home supporters who had been guests at the pre-match Christmas lunch, Guildford prepared to kick off into the teeth of the gale. The ball was well struck but hung in the wind and only travelled about 20m. It was going to be a difficult day for the kickers.
Guildford looked sprightly in the early exchanges, on one occasion Joe Gwyther playing a lovely ball back inside to Jonny Burden who made good ground with support from Joe Garner. The promising move was ended with a knock on leading to a scrum just inside the Salisbury half.
A collision between the Guildford fullback and flyhalf caused by a lack of communication between the two resulted in the ball spilling out which was kicked ahead by the Salisbury winger (who, it turns out, was Robert Crossley – brother of former Guildford player Ed Crossley). Guildford managed to get bodies back but conceded a penalty at the breakdown and Salisbury opted for the scrum ten metres from the Guildford tryline. From the scrum the Salisbury No 8 picked up but was bravely tackled by Ieuan Jones. After multiple pick and goes close to the tryline the result was a first try to Salisbury. The conversion was good, 7 – 0 after 8 minutes played.
This week’s unusual refereeing decision was given against Guildford from the restart for players being in front of the kicker, which doesn’t seem to be something referees look for these days. Salisbury opted for the scrum on halfway
Salisbury strung an attack together via several one out runners. The ball was then moved across to the outside centre who put a grubber kick in behind the defence which ended up in touch. Guildford had a lineout in their own 22
A mix up in the lineout, compounded by the strong wind, caused the ball to be knocked on by Guildford. Salisbury had a scrum 15m in on Guildford’s 5m line - Guildford stole the scrum against the head and Ieuan Jones did well to clear to touch even though it was still in the Guildford 22.
Salisbury executed the lineout well, the initial drive was held by Guildford, but they managed to roll away and score their second try close to the 15m line on the right hand side. The conversion was good, the score now 14 – 0 after 15 mins played.
The remainder of the half was a very scrappy affair that was influenced by the conditions and punctuated by scrums for numerous knock ons and penalties conceded by both sides at the scrum and breakdown. After 25 minutes a substitution was made with Alex Jordan coming off the bench to replace Jonny Burden.
Guildford managed to claw their way back into the game and from a penalty that was awarded for a high tackle on Tom Waddell, Joe Garner took quick tap and kicked through which was chased by Alex Jordan. The referee considered the tackle on Joe Garner was late and gave a penalty to Guildford on the Salisbury 22.
Joe Gwyther missed the kick to touch as it was kept in by a Salisbury player who knocked it on. However, it was then picked up by a player coming from an offside position, so the referee awards another penalty to Guildford on the Salisbury 5m line. A quick tap resulted in Alex Hankin running over for a try under the posts. The conversion from Joe Gwyther was good, the score is 14 – 7.
Not long after this the referee blew his whistle to call the first half to an end.
HT: Salisbury 14 – 7 Guildford
The wind seemed to be stronger in the second half. The conditions cried out for the ball to be put in the bottom corner which Guildford knew was difficult to get out of.
Most of this half was played on the small piece of pitch between the two 10M lines. There is not a great deal to report in terms of highlights apart from numerous knock ons, scrums and penalties. However, it was noticeable that Salisbury were starting to dominate the set piece and Guildford were starting to crumble under the constant stream of penalties.
On the rare occasion that Guildford managed to keep the ball and make ground beyond the 10m line, they were rewarded with a penalty. Joe Gwyther kicked into the Salisbury 22 for a lineout about 10m from the tryline. The lineout was executed well with a great take at the front of the line. The drive was initially held, but the ball was worked to the back and released to the backs.
Ollie Fielder again broke the first line of tackles, the ball was taken on by Joe Garner, who passed on to No 8, Ben Bushell who crossed the line for Guildford’s second try. The conversion from Joe Gwyther was good, the score was now 14 – 14
After another break from Ieuan jones, there was lots of good interplay between forwards and backs which created space for Flynn Crean to cross the line for Guildford’s third try which put Guildford in the lead for the first time in the game. The conversion was missed as the wind was too strong, the score was now Salisbury 14 – 19 Guildford.
Another long period of knock-on-scrum-penalty-scrum between the two 10m lines where Salisbury were beginning to dominate the physical contest was met with cheers from the home crowd. Neither side looked like challenging the defences as they couldn’t keep hold of the ball for long enough.
After several scrums the referee decided that Guildford had conceded too many penalties and he had to show a yellow card to replacement prop, Lewis Bounds.
The game was now very scrappy, Guildford were drowning in penalties, and not showing any way to stop the flood.
Another Salisbury attack in the middle of the pitch was stopped as the referee adjudged a pass to be forward. The referee then reversed his decision and gave Salisbury a penalty so Guildford lost the chance to clear the danger.
From the tap penalty Salisbury moved it out wide and Flynn Crean did well to intercept the ball and then gallop off down the pitch. With well over 60 m to go to the tryline he thinks better of it and kicks ahead. The ball ends up in touch just outside the Salisbury 10m line.
More scrums, Guildford are back up to 15 players with about 4 minutes left.
A free kick to Salisbury this time from a scrum and they decide to run it. This results in a penalty for not rolling away at the tackle 10m outside the Guildford 22 and a yellow card to Alex Hankin. Another scrum, Guildford crumble, the referee signals for a penalty. After several pick and drives, Salisbury go over for a try under the posts in the dying seconds, the conversion is good the score is 21 – 19 as the referee blows the final whistle.
It was a very frustrating afternoon. We lost a game we could have won comfortably. The conditions influenced the game, but we didn’t seem streetwise enough to know how to use them to our advantage.
We conceded 26 penalties in this game which is way too many. A significant number came from the scrum and we need to think about how we can solve this problem. When we get into an arm wrestle with other teams we are not strong enough to win it – we are clearly missing some bulk in the scrum. We have an exciting backline with lots of pace and guile, however if they don’t have the ball, they can’t score the tries.
Next week will be a difficult challenge against London Irish who will be very physical. They have suffered a couple of upsets on the road recently and will be keen to get their season back on track. We need to be ready for them.