The Old Wimbledonians RFC First XV made the short trip down West Barnes Lane to local rivals Old Blues this Saturday, looking to continue the fine run of form which had secured two wins from their first two games so far this season.
And they certainly got off to a bright start, showing their positive attacking intent right from the off by taking the game to the home side in the opening exchanges, playing with plenty of confidence.
A Dominant First Half Full of Flashes of Brilliance
An early clearance from the Old Blues into the OW half was fielded by full-back James Murphy, who returned with a high up-and-under and was able to re-claim his own kick. The forwards quickly recycled the ball, allowing half-backs Will Andrew and Richard Travers to move the ball wide. Nice hands in midfield by the Kiwi back-row combination of Hamish Gibb and Tom Queen resulted in an incisive break by lock Aidan O’Brien.
In behind the Old Blues defence, the referee awarded the OWs with a penalty inside the 22. Fly-half Travers was unable to convert the opportunity into three points, but it was a stern warning of how the OWs planned to be going about their business on the day.
They kept the pressure on and held the majority of possession inside the Old Blues half in the first 10 minutes. However, when the opposition did get possession, Blues also looked threatening, but were kept from building anything of significance due to strong OWs tackling.
The first half was a great spectacle, both teams playing some exciting rugby and exchanging blows, with the OWs looking particularly dangerous whenever they had the ball. The penalties kept coming and, after a couple of pokes into the corner, the visitors got their first points through a captain’s try for Aidan O’Brien, converted by Travers.
Blues came back at us through the hard running of their centres and were allowed straight back into the game with a penalty attempt from 30 metres out, but their kicker couldn’t find the target. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, indiscipline from the OWs gave him a second chance from a similar position, and that was all he needed to make the score 7-3 to the visitors after 25 minutes.
One Player Scores Two Contenders for Try of the Season
The first of two sensational OWs tries soon followed, started off by number eight Angus Fairbairn making a good burst through the middle of the Blues defence inside their half. A pop pass out of contact saw the ball moving along the line to centre Alessio Martello, who ran a wide arc, selling a dummy-switch with winger Rory Thomas to get on the outside, then chipped ahead of the surrounding Blues players. James Murphy was up in the line and on-hand to hack the bouncing ball further forward and dive on to it over the try line to score and send the crowd into hysterics.
The OWs forward pack continued to pile the pressure on after that, looking fit and organised both in attack and defence. However, Old Blues would eventually find themselves moving up the pitch to enjoy some rare but valuable time inside our half. Unfortunately, just before half-time, an injury to hooker Tom Crosswaithe allowed Blues to gain an advantage in the scrum and power their way over from five metres out, although the conversion was missed. That left the score at the break at 14-8 to the Old Wimbledonians.
The second half quite literally got off to the perfect start for us with yet another incredible try, again eventually finished by James Murphy. Blues kicked off straight to the ever-impressive O’Brien, who stepped the on-rushing tacklers and made a good 15 metres. Quick ball and quick hands down the line from Hamish Gibb and Richard Travers put winger Ollie Bull into space, allowing him to gain enough speed to break a few tackles as he charged into the Blues 22 and popped the ball off to James Murphy to score again. Travers was unable to convert this time from a tricky angle.
The Momentum Soon Swings the Home Side’s Way
The game drastically slowed down after that moment of magic. Another injury in the front-row, this time to prop Rory Forward, put the OWs under immense pressure in the scrum, giving Blues more than a few penalties in our 22, eventually resulting in a disappointing penalty try. The set piece didn’t hinder the quality of the attack on the rare occasions our players could get their hands on the ball though, with Tom Queen, Fairbairn, and O’Brien all carrying well. But too many dropped balls and loose passes played into the home side’s hands as the momentum began to swing.
Blues were allowed a very nice try of their own after a while, playing off a solid platform from a scrum around the half-way line, utilising their blind-side winger with a disguised pass from 10 that sent him slicing through the OW back-line with too much pace to be caught. That brought the scores up to 20-19 to Old Blues.
The remainder of the game was difficult to watch from an OW perspective, with scrum after scrum depriving our backs of any meaningful possession and depriving the crowd of any entertainment. Despite the front-row digging in deep and improving significantly towards the end, some questionable decisions from the referee meant the penalties kept coming, strangling the life out of the contest.
The OW forward pack did well to weather the storm and get out from underneath their own posts on a number of occasions but, with no territory and a long period on the back foot, the Old Blues eventually finished the game with another try. That left the final score at 25-19.
Onwards and Upwards
Despite being unable to hang on to the half-time lead, there was plenty of encouragement to take from this performance, both from individual players and the team as one whole unit. Earning a bonus point away from home against Old Blues, who now sit second in the tight league table, should also be seen as a positive.
The squad must now move on to the next challenge and will need all hands on deck at training this week – Tuesday and Thursday – as they prepare to host Worth Old Boys at home on Saturday, October 26.
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