For the last home game of 2023 there were several changes from the team that travelled to Salisbury. The pack saw the return of Alex Burrill and Oli Milward which allowed Joe Garner to move to his more accustomed No8 position, Tommy Waddell again showing his versatility, by moving out to the left wing from open side. Zac Rodber returned to the side at fullback as replacement for Luke Outhwaite who, I believe, has joined Camberley. It was also the last outing for Oli Hurst and Tom Waddell who depart on their travels in the new year.
For those of you who have been at Guildford for a while, it was good to see Jordan “Gamu” Gomez back, even if it was in the green of Irish as opposed to the blue of Guildford! We also welcomed our referee, Mr Stephen Farnell.
It was a mild windless day, although slightly overcast, perfect for rugby. A good crowd was expected bolstered by 120 guests who had enjoyed the club Christmas lunch, so the scene was set for a good day’s rugby.
London Irish, in their traditional green shirts, kicked off towards the road and Guildford playing in their normal blue shirts cleared to touch. The ball was knocked on in the lineout and the first scrum of the day was awarded to Irish. The start was less than ideal as Guildford conceded a penalty at the scrum. Hopefully this wasn’t a continuation from last week…
After a bit more kick tennis and to-ing and fro-ing things started to settle down. It was clear that both sides wanted to play a quick expansive game and move the ball wide whenever possible.
After some good work by the Irish forwards, they created space for their backs which enabled the Irish fullback to run untouched around the outside of the Guildford defence and score in the bottom left corner, the Irish fly half missed the conversion, so the score was 0 – 5.
Joe Garner was having more of an impact on the game from No 8 as he made strong inroads into the Irish defence breaking a couple of tackles with each carry with good support from his back row. He was also doing a good job sealing lineout ball as well. Oli Fielder was also carrying well in the middle of the park and made some good ground.
From a lineout Guildford catch and drive and make ground through the middle. The referee awards a penalty for not releasing in the tackle under the Irish posts. Joe Gwyther steps up to take a shot at goal. The attempt was good, and the score was now 3 – 5 with approximately 20 minutes played.
From the re-start Guildford secure the ball and play out of their 22. A box kick from Ieuan Jones is returned by the Irish fly half to Joe Gwyther in acres of space in front of the clubhouse. Play is taken over the halfway line by Zac Rodber. Guildford work their way into the Irish 22 and Zac Rodber is quicker than the defender on to the end of a neat grubber kick from Ieuan Jones and touches down for a try. The conversion from Joe Gwyther is good, score now is 10 – 5.
Guildford were starting to make several good breaks and put Irish under pressure. Much more coherent this week, perhaps it is more to do with the referee allowing the game to flow than a vast improvement from the players. Whichever it is, it was providing a good spectacle for the crowd.
After a rare incursion by Irish into the Guildford 22 the resulting lineout is well won by Guildford who manage to work their way up the pitch to their own 10m line before winning a penalty for not releasing. A quick tap takes them deeper into Irish territory only for the ball to be turned over. A good passage of play from Guildford showing what they are capable of playing at pace and with the ball in hand.
Not long after this the referee draws a very long half to a close. The score was Guildford 10 – 5 London Irish.
A much better performance in all areas this week. The scrum was under pressure, but it didn’t crumble like it did last week
Guildford kicked off the second half playing towards the road. Irish returned the ball back to touch just on their own 10 m line. Guildford win the lineout but the ball is dropped in the middle of the park and Irish are quickly onto it. They are showing a different attitude in the second half now, much more intent and urgency about their play.
Guildford started to make a few breaks led by Joe Garner. It was after one of these breaks that the ball was fed to Zac Rodber who found Alex Jordan (AJ) on his outside. AJ outpaced Gamu who tackled him as he crossed for Guildford’s third try of the day. The conversion from Joe Gwyther was missed. The score was now 15 – 5
Irish come back with some good passages of play, rewarded with a penalty under the Guildford posts which was converted to take the score to 15 – 8 with approximately 10 minutes of the half played.
The game then ebbs and flows with Irish working hard to get back into the game. Good pressure from Guildford chasing a kick causes the ball to be carried over. The resulting 5m scrum to Guildford is good and Tommy Waddell just can’t hold on to the pass that would have seen him score another try for G’s.
Not long after, a quick tap penalty caught the Irish defence napping and after some strong running from AJ, Alex Hankin went over under the posts to score Guildford’s fourth try. The conversion from Joe Gwyther was good, the score was now 22 – 8.
Irish work hard to get back in the game and manage to score another converted try after a tap penalty. The score moves to 22 – 15 with just under 25 minutes of the half played.
Irish had the bit between their teeth and were looking to claw back the reduced points difference in the last 15 minutes of the game.
The game then ebbed and flowed with neither side making any major impact. A promising looking attack by Irish was halted 20m outside their 22 by the referee for a crossing offence. And Guildford decided to kick for goal. I had wondered what this week’s unusual refereeing decision would be, and it was good one. The referee decided that Joe Gwyther took too long with his kick and the attempt was disallowed and he awarded a scrum to Irish.
About 5 minutes later Joe Gwyther had another chance to convert a penalty from a similar place to the last attempt. This time it was taken quickly and successfully. The score moved on to 25 – 15 with about 5 minutes plus injury time left.
Irish made good efforts to get back into the game, however Guildford’s defence was good enough to keep them out and see the game out.
All in all, a much better performance than previous weeks. Still some problems with the scrum in terms of consistency, however it was a far better spectacle for the crowd, as Mr Farnell was keen to let both sides try and play the game and not blow his whistle every minute.
The next game is away against Winchester on 6th January 2024. This will be a tough game as Guildford had to work hard to come away with a 29-29 draw when Winchster visited us earlier in the season.