Anniversary celebrations began a day early for Twickenham RFC as they claimed a convincing 41 to 13 points victory over a Winchester side that continues to be dogged by injury this season.
Twickenham rugby club is the 11th oldest in England and can trace its heritage back to 1867. They were due to celebrate their 150th anniversary by playing exhibition rugby on Sunday October 29. Whilst Winch certainly played their part in Saturday’s enthralling game, Twickenham’s execution of each opportunity left the visitors with nothing, except the consolation of a spirited and well drilled first half.
Director of Rugby Andy Fields “With the injuries we’ve got, we looked like a side that haven’t played together before – which is what it is.” They picked up another as Guy Mawhood, after a promising start at scrum half was helped from the field. Coach Gareth Martin identified a first team squad of 25 players at the start of the season. After 17 injuries, and counting, he has had to patch the team by bringing in excellent young players who are getting their first taste of the physicality of the game at senior level. Martin himself has had to step in, playing in both backs and forward positions. Alongside veteran Campbell Ettinger he has twenty years of experience over his young protegees. Whilst he has been outstanding in his contribution, never missing a tackle and always anticipating the opposition play, no doubt he would welcome the prospect of a return to the coaches’ dugout. After their blistering start to the pre-season, Winchester are feeling the pain.
Playing a team like Twickenham can be intimidating but it is why these young players play the game. It was young gun Ollie Dunger who opened the scoring with a 30-metre penalty in gusty conditions. He is looking very assured and kicked three out of his four opportunities, keeping his team in the game.
The first half was evenly balanced with Winchester’s industrious forwards pressing and Twickenham sharply countering through their backs. Twickenham scored the first try of the game after a loose Winch pass was pounced on and, with a wide pass to the Twickenham winger, they cut through to touch down despite the lunge of Jim Beavan who had scurried back. The full back made this and every conversion, an excellent effort in the breeze.
Winchester were not fazed by this, they knew they were playing a top three side, and with resolute and relentless pressure they kept the game in the Twickenham half. It was good simple rugby that saw backs combining with forwards, switching play in the 22, that eventually created the gap for Matt Golding to power over from 15 metres, taking two black and red players with him. Golding has been relentless this season, causing problems for every team. Together with Captain Beavan and full back Tom Forster, he has played and made his mark in every game.
The conversion put Winch into the lead, albeit temporarily as a Twickenham evened the score from a penalty. Mistakes and infringements began to shape the game and Twickenham took the opportunity from a five metre scrum to score as the inside centre crashed over the line. Another penalty by Dunger kept Winch in the hunt at 17 – 13 but Twickenham were now scenting opportunity, with collision ball through the centres or chips behind; leaving Winchester’s defensive forwards stranded. An awkward bounce from an overhead kick led to a third try on half time as it bounced away from Oscar Ashton, to be pounced upon by their full back.
It was only the second time this season that Winch have been behind at half time and at 22 – 13 the game was still in contention. But Twickenham had a training ground move at the restart that ambushed Winch as they poured down the wing for a bonus point try. Winch regrouped but found themselves defending their line which was finally breached when the Twickenham forwards crashed over for a damaging fifth try. Up to that moment it had been a well contested game, but Winch now had nowhere to go. They were locked in defence, forced back into their own half for phase after phase of wearing defensive duty. A moment of magic from the mercurial Forster almost rekindled the flame, as he ran, slipped, wove and spirited his way through 60 metres only for the offload to spill forward.
Twickenham had a man sent off for a deliberate trip, but the pressure was maintained and increased, as Winch dropped passes and knocked on in an attempt to break the stranglehold. Andy Fields “They are a good team, but their trys came, in part, from our mistakes.” The final blow arrived as Twickenham, awarded a penalty in sight of the posts kicked through for three points; rubbing salt into the Winchester wound. Martin’s team never shirked or looked beaten, but he and they know that together they have a fight on their hands this season. Whilst Winchester can take heart in this show of character they will be massively disappointed to have started Twickenham’s anniversary celebrations in such fine style.
T Forster, O Ashton, O Cook, A Dandy, O Dunger, C Preston, G Mawhood, B Turner, T Williams, J Beavan, C Ettinger, J Afandari, A Hiscock, G Martin, M Golding.
Replacements M Harling, S Hadlington, F Bagnall
Pens Dunger x2
Updated 13:42 - 10 Nov 2017 by Mark Castle