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Surrey RFU Bowl Tournament
Woking played their twice postponed Surrey RFO bowl game on Saturday not away at Johnians but at home as the Johnians pitch was waterlogged. That said – it was a tremendous effort to get the game playable at Woking where water pumps were working from early morning right up to kick-off to displace the lake that had developed on the pitch. Both sides were desperate to get a game in and fulfil the fixture.
Woking started well and from the first scrum which they took against the head, a passage of driving phase play saw Woking power up field. From the subsequent Phil Robertson touched down for the try after the dominant Woking scrum had driven over from 10 metres out.
Johnians struggled to get their hands on possession as Woking dominated at the scrum, ruck and maul. When they did get some possession their backs looked threatening but the wet conditions and huge pressure from Steve Rhodes and Phil Robertson in the back row gave the backs little time on the ball.
One break was nearly successful for Johnians though thwarted only by a super last gasp tackle from Eker at full back.
Woking’s 9 and 10 Bannister and Aitchison were working well together, Bannister sniping around the scrum ruck and ball both in defence and attack and getting good ball out to Aitch time and time again. Aitchison was himself being put under pressure by the opposition back row however a series of deft kicks, missed passes and decent clearance kicks relieved the pressure on Woking greatly.
It was the power in the Woking forwards notably second rows Hursthouse and Stedman, who put in two huge shifts in the hard graft of the ruck, maul and scrummage, that allowed Aitchison to unleash the ever dangerous Dan Edwards in the backs who made some scything runs that threatened to breach the Johnians defence.
Johnians put together a good passage of play and pressed Woking back in their half however Rhodes grabbed the loose ball and from the turnover ball Woking created an overlap for Edwards, Bannister, Aitchison and Gilbert to work up the pitch with great interplay. Held up short Woking were rewarded with a second try off the back of the scrum through Adam Smith.
Woking were increasing in confidence but the youthful Johnians were not flat at all and were still fighting to get back into the match. They could do little though to thwart the sustained pressure and great ball retention of Woking. Bannister unleashed the backs and when the ball reached Gilbert on the wing he cut back inside and ran hard for the line linked up with Smith who powered over.
Dougherty slotted the kick at his third attempt. Half time 17-0.
The second half started well for Woking largely due to the fact that they continued the high work rate exemplified by the great defensive pressure that Hursthouse and Rhodes applied, forcing numerous mistakes from Old Johnians. Phase after phase of good structured rugby from Woking which was pleasing head coach Andy Jones greatly, resulted in a scrum to Woking 10 metres out. The dominant scrum allowed Bannister to look up and catch the Johnians back row asleep as he darted and then slid over for an excellent try. Dougherty landed his second kick.
Johnians were still fighting hard and produced a concerted drive deep into the Woking 22 metre area. However the Woking resolve was high and they were determined to hold out which they did clearing their lines with a cracking kick to touch from Aitch.
Woking turned over possession and in the final play of the game, great linking between Aitchison Dan Edwards put the eel like Ross Callahane in for a try in the corner as he slipped past two Old Johnians defenders.
Captain Adam Smith beamed after the game 'A magnificent team performance, Bannister produced his best form at No.9 just when we needed it. This provided the impetus for the team and the pack were dominant throughout. Aitchison should eat poached eggs on toast before every game it seems to do something to his performance!'
Hamilton-Wilkes, Edwards, Buckley, Stedman, Hursthouse, Robertson, Smith, Rhodes, Bannister, Aitchison, Dougherty, Edwards, Gilbert, Callahane, Eker. Subs: Bremner, Smith, Parker.