Guildford Rugby Club

Back to winning ways, but missed out on a bonus point

Guildford 21 – 7 Newbury

Saturday 13th January 2024

 Back to winning ways, but missed out on a bonus point

. Photo credit Stu McAlister

Guildford’s first home game of 2024 saw the visit of Newbury Blues, which we think is the first time that they have played at Broadwater.  The team showed several changes from last time out at Winchester, particularly in the backs where we are looking a bit thin on the ground for numbers due to injuries and unavailability.  The day was also notable because of the first ever Minis takeover, led by the Ants (U9s) the details of which you can read more about elsewhere but suffice to say it was a great idea that was well organized and will go a long way to bring the junior and senior sections of the club together and, hopefully, in 10 years time secure the continuation of the 1st XV.

Newbury kicked off playing towards the Guildford Road end. The early part of the game was like previous games with two sides well matched and not able to break through the others defence. Newbury had the best of the possession in the first half, trying to get their backs into the game, but the Guildford defence was solid and they were not able to break through. Guildford had a much more dominant scrum this week and that created a platform for Joe Garner at 8 to get over the gain line on several occasions.

The weeks interesting refereeing point came quite early in the game.  Newbury played in their changed strip of red and white.  The referee decided to wear his pink and white shirt, causing many including myself, to think that there was a Newbury player constantly offside at the breakdown.  I always thought that referees had a selection of shirts to avoid such events, perhaps that isn’t the case.

From a penalty in mid-field Joe Gwyther kicked deep into the Newbury 22 for what was Guildford’s first visit into the opposition half.  The lineout was well executed and Guildford won fast ball off the top. The ball then travelled through several pairs of hands, with short sharp passes from lovely soft hands that created an opening for Jacob Jones to cross the try line close to the posts.  The conversion from Joe Gwyther is good and the score is Guildford 7 – Newbury 0 after about 15 mins played.

The game then fell back into the early rhythm with neither side making any great inroads as defences were solid.  It was becoming clear that Guildford had the more dominant pack in the set piece and lineout, whereas Newbury had the more organized back division.

Newbury got themselves back into the game dominating possession for long periods of time, but not managing to make any real inroads.  A sustained period of pressure on the Guildford try line saw the home defence hold out and prevent Newbury getting over the line.  Guildford conceded several 5m penalties, but somehow managed to keep out the attack, even after the referee showed Jacob Jones a yellow card after one too many transgressions at the breakdown.  Shortly after Guildford manage to clear their lines and the referee decides that he has seen enough and blows for half time.

HT Guildford 7 – 0 Newbury

It was good to see Guildford U9’s playing on the pitch at half time to show the club the talent that is developing. Once the teams were back out on the pitch it was time for Guildford, still down to 14 players, to kick off playing towards the Guildford Road end.

The kick off was deep and high giving the chasers the opportunity to put the catcher under pressure. The relieving kick didn’t find touch and Guildford were able to run the ball back. Newbury were then penalized for a high tackle and Joe Gwyther puts the ball into the Newbury 22 for the lineout.

Alex Burrill (Foley) secured the lineout and, even with 7 men in the pack, the drive was too strong for Newbury who didn't defend it well enough. Then the backs decided to add their bulk to the pack as the maul got close to the try line.  The referee was down on his knees and decided that Brett Kingsbury grounded the ball.  The conversion from Gwyther was good, so after 2 minutes of the second half the score moved to Guildford 14 – 0 Newbury.

After this bit of excitement things went back to normal, Newbury dominating possession, Guildford scrambling in defence but nothing significant happening.  One or two holes were starting to appear in both defences as tiredness began to set in, but still the defences managed to dominate.

Jacob Jones returned as the same time as Harry Phillips and Ollie Millward joined the game to bring Guildford back up to full complement, the fresh legs injecting some pace to the Guildford attack. Newbury were still trying to get their backs into the game and made some inroads, causing Guildford to concede several penalties.  From one of the Newbury penalties on the Guildford 10m line the Newbury 10 tried to kick deep into the Guildford 22 but it was fielded by Ben Bushell who returned the kick but with a huge amount of interest as the ball rolled into touch inside the Newbury 22.  This type of kick can be soul destroying for the attacking team who have worked hard to get field position, then are sent 50m back down the pitch.

Another good lineout with the ball well secured by Flynn Crean at the front enabled Guildford to set up another driving maul. The ball was released and Guildford made further progress until the referee awarded Newbury a penalty for holding on.

Newbury try to clear their lines but successive errors and resolute Guildford defence combine to keep them pinned in their own 22.  This prolonged Guildford pressure results in a penalty at the breakdown inside the Newbury 22 which is kicked into touch giving Guildford a lineout on the Newbury 5m line.

Again, the lineout functions well, the drive is strong and Newbury can’t defend it.  A shrill blast signifies a penalty try to Guildford for side entry by a Newbury player, who is then shown a yellow card.  The score moves to Guildford 21 -0 Newbury after about 25 minutes played.

Guildford keep pressing looking for the bonus point, but Newbury are going to make them work for it. After some good interplay between forwards and backs, a kick through from Joe Garner in the Newbury 22 runs away from the chasers and results in a drop out.

From the dropout the game springs into life with the one of the most enthralling passages of play seen at Broadwater for a while. The ball is fielded just outside the 22 and Alex Jordan (AJ) made a break through the defence, but the pass to Ollie Milward wasn’t to hand and the try went begging.  Newbury were on the loose ball first and ran out from behind their own try line.  The ball is turned over again, and Guildford are held up short of the try line.  Newbury win the ball back and then work their way up the field with some good handling and fast ruck ball.  This pressure results in a penalty just under the Guildford posts, which is taken quickly and after passing through a couple of pairs of hands, Newbury cross for a try.  The conversion is good and the score moves to Guildford 21 -7 Newbury.

There is not much time left on the clock, but Newbury are brimming with confidence now and as spaces are starting to open up, their enthusiastic backs are beginning to make inroads.  Guildford are hanging on in there, doing their best to slow things down and Newbury were trying to speed things up but the crowd were getting nervous that Newbury could steal something here.

Guildford managed to hold on to the final whistle and the final score was Guilford 21 - 7 Newbury.  Quite a scrappy game overall, but both sides wanting to play rugby when the opportunity presented itself.  Guildford looked stronger in the forwards and possibly could have, should have, scored a bonus try.

Newbury perhaps will rue the chances they had towards the end of the first half where they were pressurizing the Guildford line but just didn't have the physicality to barge their way over the line and score.  Guildford back to winning ways in 2024 - there is now a week of rest before a visit to runaway league leaders Jersey on Jan 26th.

Mike Burden

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