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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