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With the weather forecast showing a severe cold snap there were a few less than enthusiastic Hatters during the week, mainly Porter, Rosser and Crawford #fairweatherbacks, however the conditions could not have been more perfect. Beautiful sunny winter morning at The Rock.
Enthusiasm fully reinstated and an incredible looking squad, in particular up front with the likes of Stern, Ryan, Willis, Horgan and Sav all regular starters now being utilised by captain Wigley as his “Finishers”. It left the Hatters backline excited to receive a bountiful supply of fast regular ball.
This all being said there was a firm focus in the air with away team Guildford having done a number on the Hatters only 3 weeks previously in a friendly, so it was not going to be a walk in the park even with a strong hatters squad.
Despite playing into an ever strengthening wind Hatters got off to a fantastic start with some strong running up front from Wardy and Chrissy “fuck off Barnes” Scott. Whilst in defence the 20th + centre combination of Gui and Macca held firm. Hatters enjoyed a solid 15-20 minutes of sustained ball however a couple of white line fever moments saw good opportunities frustratingly wasted.
So far so good… well apart from Macca, clearly missing the clean Scottish air and so struggling to breath- obviously nothing to do with fitness levels had to be replaced by the multi-positional Bealo.
Then came the inevitable when playing a team that regularly trains with their first team, Guildford conjured up a well structured rolling maul before unleashing a textbook backs move to score very much against the run of play. This however proved to be the shock that Hatters needed to make them concentrate harder when in the red zone and just two minutes later the mighty Foot grounded from the back of an impressive maul started by the impeccable Barrett in the second row.
Another 5 minutes of sustained Hatters pressure saw a number of penalty advantages being played and on one such one Crawford decided why not put the ever young Rosser to the test up against his 6 foot 4 opposing winger with a cross-field kick to the corner… leaping as though he was still in his early 30’s Rosser in mid air popped the ball down to the ever present Adam to go in unopposed for a well worked try.
The half finished well for Hatters with yet another rolling maul well controlled by Stern, now on for the injured Wigley whose leg had been collateral damage, and his partners in crime Batman and Ted, yet it was an unlikely maul scorer… clearly not content in just playing centre Beale took on ball and grounded well. Sadly with the wind now at gale force 7, even the impeccable boot of Longers from the week before (yes this was mentioned once or twice…) wouldn’t have made the extras and so the scoreline stood at 15-7.
Even the Churchill esq Wigley saw no need for a rousing team talk and simply “more of the same” required. The second half couldn’t have started better, well aside from Wardy deciding to be about 10m offside at the kick off, a fantastic charge up the pitch by the mighty Henners then saw the backs unleash the move of the match and send Adam sprinting into the corner for his second… and with the wind more in his favour the extras were added.
Sadly the inevitable Hatters complacency saw a very soft try scored under the posts by Guildford 22-14. Thankfully with the wind in favour Hatters played a good territory game and with Newcombe bossing everybody on the pitch and continuously making sniping runs and breaks saw the Hatters camped on Guildford’s line. Another text book line out, now being operated by Stern having come on for the injured captain fantastic, saw yet another rolling maul despite a new look pack with Horgan, Sav and Willis added to the fray… outcome the same The mighty Kinsky dotting down for the 5 points.
Yet another terrible defensive switch off from Hatters allowed one of the Guildford boys to to run in pretty much untouched from 50m to yet gain keep the game close. 27-21.
Yet another line break from Newcs saw the Hatters into the Guildford half and then a few interchanges between Gui, Beale and Mason saw Park get into the 22. With both Porter and Stern on his inside shoulder Crawford took the ball to the line before popping the ball blindly inside and hoping the right recipient took the ball… Thankfully Porter did collect, glide through the gap and step the full back for a lovely try which all enjoyed aside from the outraged Stern who was heard to protest ‘you stole my try’.
Finally some breathing space with less than 10 minutes left… oh no wait lets make it interesting… Guildford in the corner for another soft try… thankfully no extras and so 32-26 with 5 to play but with Guildford scoring easily every time they attacked and with their heads up it was bound to be a nervy 5 minutes of defensive work especially with Gui now in the bin as well.
With Guildford camped in the Hatters 22 the decisive score looked inevitable… then a moment of sheer brilliance (on this occasion) from the penalty king Wardy… As the Guildford 9 went to feed their attacking scrum Wardy deftly reached up and, with a throwback to Neil Back all those years ago, magically willed the ball out of the 9’s hands and under the feet of Dom Ryan in the row. With the referee on the other side of the scrum play continued and the Hatters cleared their lines with the Guildford pack outraged… Lovely Stuff. The final whistle finally went for a fantastic bonus point win but with some defensive work to be done during “training”.
Man of the Match – Joe Newcombe
D.O.D – Macca
The Hatters faced a Hammersmith and Fulham XV in a friendly on Saturday after league opponents Chichester had pulled out for the second time, and they put in one of their best performances of the season for a 73-12 victory.
With the league points already in the bag after Chichester’s forfeit, the Hatters opened up their style for a free-flowing performance. After a couple of years, they might finally be losing that sense of fear at the sheer size and pace of the big 4G pitch at the Rock, instead embracing it. 135 points in two games certainly suggests so.
Tries came in all shapes and sizes, Tom Longley grabbing the headlines with a hat-trick. Those scores came after a shift from fly half to scrum half for the Hatters’ vice-captain after scrum half Josh Riley had impressively pulled a hamstring while standing still. His performance in the bar post-game lasted somewhat longer as along with debutant Matt Benson they filled a Tom Mills sized hole in the Australian corner as the Hatters’ settled in for the England game.
On the field the Hatters’ re-jig saw Longley move into scrum half, with Jack Porter stepping up from full back into the outside half slot, providing him the perfect opportunity from a closer proximity to share with the forward pack his considerable expertise in the driving maul. On the ball he linked well with another of the Hatters’ trio of debutants, Guillaume Bardin, who excelled in the centre channel. In Porter, Bardin, and Adam Alexander the Hatters’ had a midfield trio that caused constant problems.
Bardin was in the mix for the man of the match award on his debut, the gong eventually going to Henry Foot for the second week in a row after another top display. Foot had conveniently chosen to drive in a bid to get home in time to watch Scotland’s latest heroic near miss, so Alexander selflessly stepped up to the mark, never one to turn down the opportunity of a free pint.
Without doubt it was one of the Hatters’ most exciting performances, and having successfully given first caps to Ethan, Guillaume, and Matt, it was a good chance to expand that playing squad an bring the average age down a few notches.
Tough tests lie ahead though, with two of the toughest sides in the league coming up, Guildford on Saturday and Worthing on the 9th December. The Hatters will need to be at their absolute sharpest for both of those games.
Saturday saw the Hatters play host to strong rivals Dorking 2nd XV. Having narrowly scraped a victory in the quarter finals last season, the Hatters were assembled in full strength in preparation. Gone the days of a rag tag band of 14 or so men hastily scrabbled together the night before, Captain Wigley had the unenviable task of whittling the squad down to the requisite 22.
The Hatters came out of the blocks all guns blazing with early tries from Kinsky and McMann. Caught out by such an uncharacteristic start from the home side, Dorking were left wanting, any clearing kicks being adeptly countered by the unholy triumvirate of Porter, Rosser and Parmenter in the back 3. In order to avoid dispiriting the visitors too early into the game, Rosser, having broken the Dorking line on two separate occasions decided to reward himself with a brace of passes that can only be described as ‘NFL-style’. In spite of his efforts, the DotD award was to prove elusive.
Not only were the Hatters looking threatening from the backline, the forward pack continued to make inroads around the Dorking fringes, with notable carries from Foot and the newly repatriated Chrissy Scott. Additional scores in the first half from Porter, Parmenter and a penalty try left the half time score at 29-14 to the Hatters following a couple of breakaway tries from Dorking against the run of play.
The second half continued in a similar vein, with Dorking tiring and a supply of fresh legs from the Hatters bench. Aside from a couple of line breaks from momentary sloppy defending from the Hatters and a barrelling run from Dorking’s replacement hooker, the home side remained comfortable. Having watched Parmenter finish off his opportunities well, de Haan, on a fleeting visit to the left wing, tagged on the end of a well-worked Hatters try. Further tries from Newcombe and Scott and counter tries from Dorking left the final score at 62-21.
Notable performances from Parmenter, picking up his hat-trick, Leigh, securing kick off ball for the first time since 2007 (self-proclaimed) and Foot; Foot ultimately taking the prize of MotM for his barnstorming carries. DotD awarded to Longers, as greedy as Lewis Hamilton’s tax planner, for hanging onto the ball on a 3(/4?) on one opportunity and failing to cross the whitewash.
So Friday saw the return of the now infamous Hatters ‘Friday Night Lights’ and as usual the Hatters had their full complement of players to pick from…
With 10 front 5 players in the squad the team had a solid and robust feel to it. It is always an interesting fixture against Kew Occasionals given their Barbarian style rugby and constantly changing squad. It’s fair to say the Hatters are more used to themselves being the team playing with a more laissez-faire attitude than the opposition.
In true Hatters style the first 5 minutes was somewhat of a rude awakening with Kew scoring within as the Hatters tackling decided to be more of a revolving door than a road block. It would be fair to say at this point the Hatters could have been left wondering just how many ringers Kew had thrown into the mix given the speed and intensity at which they were playing. The first 15 minutes saw just 3 breaks in play and an awful lot of heavy breathing, however Hatters hung on with some resolute defending particularly from the starting front five of Stern, Wigley, Leigh, Ryan and Davies… sadly the 15 minute rampage from Kew did result in Stern being confused into thinking he’d already played a full 80 so decided he would go down with what was later diagnosed as a bruised knee…
Thankfully with the Hatters soaking up the pressure they finally got their lucky break with a blind side dart, a kick ahead by the ambidextrous AA and what can only be described as pure gas from Adam P as he scorched after the kick through, collect the bouncing ball in one hand and slid over for a score under the posts… and breathe.
More defensive work from Longers in the centre led to Kew throwing even more ambitious passes allowing the ever defence shy Porter to opt for an intercept rather than make a tackle… lucky for him and the Hatters he collected well and sprinted off for another easy touch down. This then followed yet another break away try, from a somewhat unlikely source… usually known for his defensive work Willis found himself come through the centre of a ruck hacking the ball forward and then as if he wanted to show off his footballing skills decided to turn down the opportunity to gather the ball on two occasions and rather hack the ball forward, out pacing the Kew covering defence and grounded the ball in the corner for a superb opportunistic try.
I believe a try from Hatters (sorry not sure who) and from Kew made the score line 26-14 to the Hatters in a somewhat flattering half time score line.
The second half was equally loose with both sides essentially deciding that outscoring the opposition rather than defending would be a better tactical option. A fantastic try in the corner from the mighty Henry Foot following some exceptional line out work from the boys up front put Hatters in a commanding lead…
However Kew weren’t done and a couple of quick soft tries made the Hatters regroup and begin to focus somewhat. Macca came into the centres and from another fine line out cut a delightful line off the shoulder of Crawford to ghost through the Kew defence and go under the posts untouched giving the Hatters a little breathing space.
With Kew now mentally and physically drained the Hatters turned the screw and after some sustained ruck and maul play the Kew defence opened up and despite the option of a 6 on 1 overlap the ever try-hungry Porter collected the ball, spotted a gap (or so he says) and squeezed through the cover defence for his brace.
All in all a fine display against a dangerous attacking team and some big positives for captain Wigley to take into next week’s game against Dorking… inevitably a tough fixture given the close scoreline in last years play off quarter final.
After Chichester pulled out at the last minute, Guildford 2nd XV generously stepped up to make the journey to the Rock to provide the Hatters with the run-out they needed to refocus after two weeks’ off. From the outset, the Hatters were struggling for numbers in the pack with a bare eight and Peck and Kinsky having to step into the second row. The situation became even more desperate when Horgan was forced to pull out injured during the warm-up. Or so it seemed. In fact, it soon became apparent that this was merely the setting of the stage for AA’s masterclass from the back row. There was some shuffling in the backs too with newcomer Josh Riley, stepping in at scrum-half, Longers at 10 and Beale and McMann in the centres.
Longers started proceedings, kicking off into the wind towards the clubhouse. With an impressive lift and take, Guildford secured good possession and ran the phases until it secured a penalty. After a decent catch and drive and a breakdown in communication on the Hatters’ blind side, Guildford’s scrumhalf exploited the space and ran in a soft try. 0-5 with only a few minutes played. The Hatters managed to regroup quickly and started to apply pressure in defence. However, they continued to be starved of ball as Guildford recycled well and the Hatters’ poor discipline cost them a number of penalties. Guildford were rewarded with two further tries before the break, one a rather harsh penalty try (and yellow card) after Porter’s arms had slipped up over the shoulder as he made the covering tackle. However, the Hatters did manage one of their own. After a decent take at the lineout which was expertly marshalled by Peck, Kinsky took the ball on through the middle with his trademark gallop. Peck took it on before releasing the ball to Longers just pass the halfway. After some quick hands in the midfield, Parmenter finished well to go over in the corner to bring the scores at the break to 5-17.
The Hatters started the second half well, tightening up defence and playing more cohesively. Paddy, in his first start for the club, put in an epic performance both at scrum-time, sacking the lineout and in the loose. Wardie in his first game back from a broken collar bone was all over the Park and worked well with AA who managed to win several turnovers at the breakdown. The hard work paid off after quick ball was won from a lineout on Guildford’s 22 and Porter was released on a charmed line in the midfield to beat several defenders and go over under the posts off first phase ball. 12-17.
With their tails up, Park started to play some good rugby. After running the phases down the midfield, Porter found himself in space on the righthand side with Parmenter outside him, one defender to beat twenty yards out. Having done the hard work and fixed his man, unfortunately Ports’ try trickled into touch. Soon after Guildford did manage to convert one od their own opportunities to bring their tally up to 24. With a 12-point deficit and 15 minutes to go, the Hatters had to work hard to get back into the game. Putting in the hard yards, Park were rewarded with a penalty in the midfield. With the lineout secured by Peck in the middle and a decent drive set up, Park were only kept out by Guildford unlawfully pulling down the maul. Eventually Guildford were reduced to 14 men with a yellow card and the Hatters elected for a scrum. While the tight eight were not rewarded immediately with the try they deserved, Longers eventually managed to burrow his way over to bring Guildford within one score at 19-24.
Despite a huge effort in the final minutes where the Hatters succeeded in retaining the ball for countless phases on Guildford’s 22, they never quite succeeded in crossing the line. While the Hatters can be pleased both with the performance and the way in which they stuck at it to come close in the final quarter, they will need to work on their discipline if they are not going to throw away eminently winnable games in the league. Man of the match went to AA for setting the standard in the back row, with honourable mentions to Paddy and Josh in their first stars for the Hatters. Despite a superb try, DotD to Porter. The Hatters next play at home on Friday under floodlights against Kew Occasionals (kick-off; 7.30pm) – all welcome.
Thursday evening saw skipper Wigley release the 22 man squad for Saturday’s game against Sutton and Epsom. With the Hatters really starting to fire in the last couple of weeks, competition for places is heating up! Certain players missed out this week due to poor admin on their part. Teamer is a doddle to use and said offenders, having learnt the hard way, have updated their availability until 2019!
This week the Hatters were on the road again, albeit only a short trip to Surrey. Time keeping has been improving this season and the boys were all assembled and ready to get going at 11:30. Reading the club sign on the entrance, Tom Mills was both amazed and delighted to be playing rugby at a club which was established before his beloved Australia.
Earlier in the week the team received the final item of their new kit, slim fit shorts. Similar to when a bride orders a wedding dress, the kit has been ordered on the basis of ‘what we should look like’ rather than what we actually look like. Sizing issues would be rectified if more players got themselves down to the weekly fitness sessions on Wednesday evening….
After a good warmup, Wigley and Longers decided on their team. Some tough calls had to be made on the selection front and everyone would need to play at their best.
Park managed to draw first blood with a penalty but Sutton and Epsom replied swiftly by scoring from their own kick off. Annoyingly the scrums became uncontested due to one of their props claiming injury. Coops scored the first Park try with an outrageous dummy – few knew the old man had it in him…
A few more pens and another try from Sutton and Epsom and Park ended the half ahead, 16-14. Just before halftime skipper Wigley was taken down with a HUGE hit. He was down and whilst he wasn’t seriously injured he’d have to come off for a Head Injury Assessment, he’d play no further part in the game. Rory Horgan on and Jason Gabb would throw the line, and throw it very well he did!
Second half, the Hatters managed to find their rhythm. Grant tore through the line for a well-worked try and Joe Newcombe confused both the opposition and his team mates by playing wherever he wanted on the pitch, his dynamism saw him rewarded with a try.
Notable contributions were also made from the bench with players keen to show their desire to play. Park were put under lots of pressure in the second half, including Gabb running back to make a tackle which almost certainly saved a try.
All in all a scrappy game but a win is a win! Grant was man of the match and Porter gets dick of the day for his yellow card for a deliberate knock on – will he never learn?!
Park are now three from three. A week off next week and the social secs have arranged some light relief at the London Oktoberfest. The lads will return to the rock for a game or training session on the 14th.
After a return to form against Chobham IIs the week before, the Hatters went into this game full of confidence and buoyed by the knowledge that Cobham had been turned over by their local rivals Chobham only the week before. Indeed, conditions were ideal for champagne rugby on what was an immaculately turned out pitch. Sadly this never materialised, with the match becoming a gritty affair. That said, stout defence ensured the Hatters came away with an important win.
The match started with the Hatters probing around the fringes and putting Cobham under significant pressure; however, it became clear their defence was solid and the Hatters would have to work hard for their points. This challenge was relished by the Hatters’ scrum half, Owen Jones, who caused Cobham all sorts of problems with some barnstorming carries. Unfortunately, his over enthusiasm for the contact resulted in an injury after 20 mins. He left the field with stats of 1 box kick, 1 pass and 10 carries to his name.
The first half was largely dominated by the Hatters in terms of territory and position; however, with 38mins played, the Hatters only managed three points. This is despite going close on several occasions with both Rosser and Parmenter having the ball over the opposition try line, only to be held up and dispossessed respectively.
However, this frustration was short lived as the Hatters managed to dot down just before half time. It came after another period of prolonged pressure, where the Hatters pack forced a turn-over (not for the first time) close to the Cobham try line. The ball was fired out to Porter, who (and you may want to sit down for this one) passed it to Parmenter for a simple run in the corner. In Porter’s defence, it was a fantastic Hail Mary pass.
Cobham began the second half strongly, scoring almost immediately, as their centre waltzed through a gaping hole in the Hatters defence. This lapse in concentration was the one blotch on what was otherwise a strong defensive performance.
Not long after, the Hatters managed to win a penalty just inside Cobham’s half. Crawford stepped up and nudged it the best part of 50m to earn an important 3 points.
With the scoring complete, the game moved into a holding pattern for 30 minutes, whereby the Hatters would concede a penalty, win the resulting line-out, clear their lines and then concede another penalty. Credit to the Hatters’ line-out for dominating throughout the match. Of particularly note was front jumper, 6’7 Dom Ryan and his 6’4 lifter, Tom Mills, who made the most of their mechanical advantage!
Overall, the Hatters did well to withstand the pressure, but their discipline will need to improve if they’re to back this up with a win against Sutton & Epsom next week.
Saturday saw the defending champion Hatters travel to the South coast for their first league game of the season against Havant. With a number of players still topping up their summer tans abroad it was all hand on deck to field a team that welcomed back Drew Barrett after a 2 year injury and welcomed support from Andy Morgan and David Winterflood from the Nomads.
Playing in to a stiff breeze to start, strong ball carrying up front and an impressive set piece meant the Hatters controlled territory and possession in the opening quarter. Continued pressure forced a penalty that was kicked to the corner and a well worked line out drive saw Wardy go over for the opening score.
The Hatters continued to look in control with ball in hand while Havant’s fitter and pacier side looked threating on the counter. It was several of these such counter attacks in the 2nd quarter that saw the game taken away from the Hatters. Instances of sloppy play at the breakdown and ball in hand saw Havant turn the ball over and through an opportunistic kick chase game matched with some slick breakaway handling score 5 quick tries to take the wind out of the Hatters’ sails.
The second half was a more balanced affair with the Hatters again dominating possession and territory early on, to be denied by their own errors and Havant’s proud defence. In many player’s first run out of the season tired legs began to show for the Hatters and Havant’s substitutes were able to capitalise for 2 more tries on the breakaway.
The final quarter again saw the Hatters press with more success. Phase play following a line out saw Drew Barrett drive over from short range before David Winterflood intercepted an errant Havant pass to go in under the posts. The game ended shortly after 46-19.
This was a much needed run out for the Hatters allowing many players a chance to limber up for another big season. The set piece play was very impressive and provides a good platform to build on, with improvement needed at the breakdown and reduced handling errors. Next week sees the Hatters travel to Chobam where they welcome back some familiar faces to the side.
The Hatters returned to the field of play on Saturday for the first time since winning the league back in April with that memorable win over Richmond in the final.
Local friends and rivals, London Cornish, were the visitors for this training game, the Hatters’ one and only warm-up game ahead of the season’s opener away at Havant this coming Saturday, and it was the visitors who were to emerge victorious.
However with four and a half months featuring little to no rugby it was perhaps a bit of a surprise that it was the Hatters that got off to the faster start, with Ali ‘big game’ Crawford using the post to great effect as he bounced a chip off it to dot down unopposed.
It could have been more as Grant Somerville burst through on a brilliant line, only for the excesses of the Friday night to catch up with him at the crucial moment as the ball mysteriously fell from his grasp as he bent over to dot down.
The big wide 4G pitch began to catch up with the Hatters though, with a lack of communication and organisation beginning to set in as the lungs began to burn. Cornish capitalised, levelling through their slippery fly half before adding further scores for a decent lead as the game, split into four quarters of twenty, entered the third quarter.
Down four tries to one, the Hatters rallied. There was a determination not to let the success of last season go to waste this season, and they scored key tries in that third period through Paul Goodall, once again showing his nose for the line at the tail of the maul, and Jack Cooper, who put in a tidy performance in the unfamiliar position to him of scrum half.
It looked as though the comeback was on, and as they put in a huge defensive set against a determined Cornish attack, belief was coursing through the team. Unfortunately oxygen was not though, and as this well-organised Cornish side shifted the ball from one side to the other a final time, the Hatters just did not quite have the energy to move their men to the far side of the ruck, with Cornish going over in the corner to put themselves two scores clear.
Back came the Hatters though, with time ticking down they moved back into Cornish territory and a wonderful solo run from debutant, Adam Parmenter, capped his Man of the Match performance with a try. He was one of three debutants on the day, with Macca in the midfield and Will up in the engine room, all three of whom enjoyed handy first outings.
Result aside, it was a good blow out for the Hatters ahead of Saturday’s opener. The only major downside was the number of early season casualties, which saw them play out the final 20 minutes or so with just 14 men.
Hats off to Cornish, who put in a great shift. With the two sides in different conferences this year it unfortunately means that this is likely the last time that these two will meet this season unless both reach the play-offs.
Full Time: Rosslyn Park Hatters 24-35 London Cornish