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Met Police 24 - 19 Woking (Surrey Bowl Quarter Final)
The last time Woking faced the Met Police was in Surrey 4 before Met police gained promotion last season. Having had a relatively successful time in Surrey 3, Woking were expecting a tough game from the Met, and the match certainly lived up to expectation. The sheer size difference between the two squads was immediately obvious but, confident in their ability Woking hit hard from the kick off.
It was clear that the Met Police had only intentions of running straight over the sleight Woking side, but as their first ball carriers got smashed backwards by back rows Rhodes, Robertson and Francino, they looked to change their point of attack. Next out were James Bannister and Mike Aitchison, who also put in a couple of hefty tackles, punching well above their weight, before the Met shifted play to outside of their 10, only to be crunched by Woking 12 Ryan England. A last ditch attempt at breaking the Woking line early on ran them into Lloyd Pullin who tackled his opposite number so hard that a small squeal emanated from somewhere within the giant police officer. Clearly stunned at the ferocity of the Woking defence, Met Police panicked and opted for a kicking game.
With ball in hand Woking looked equally as impressive in attack as in defence. Meeting the Met upfront in every collision and breaking their line with relative ease. Woking's very own hard man Nick Francino, charged through several police officers, before a deft kick from James Bannister opened some space for Tom Eker to step in off his wing and put the rampaging Francino over the line in the corner. With the conversion narrowly missed and Met Police visibly shaken, Woking returned to face the kick off.
Another fierce exchange of defence from Woking turned a ball over, and a passage of play from within Woking's 22, combining Marc Riddell, Phil Robertson, Gary Raife and James Bannister gave Aitchison space to dummy down the wing, using agility to slip around brawn, and place a lovely pass to Shaun Gilbert, who danced past the final defender to score under the posts. Aitchison added the extras. The wind was clearly in Woking's sails as they outplayed and out manoeuvred the lumbering giants of the Met Police. If not for a slight knock on Woking would have been in under the posts again in short succession. The unfortunate mistake gave the Met Police a chance for points before the end of the half and from a quick tap penalty they crossed un-opposed for 5. 5-12 to Woking at the break.
Aitchison was clearly enjoying captaining the valiant Woking side who, full of confidence, gathered from the kick off and set off down the field once more on the attack. The spread of the play and the control of the ball was nothing short of magnificent as Woking wove their way through, over, under, and around any defence the Met could muster. Lloyd Pullin, bored of smashing people in defence decided to do similarly with ball in hand, picking the largest and hardest looking men on the field, then reducing them to rubble as he broke them one by one. A superb interlink between Aitchison and Pullin gave space for Aitchison to carry the ball over the line and convert himself to take Woking to 19-5.
The Met Police were fractured and began to disregard the rules of rugby with a number of scrummages resulting in fisty-cuffs. Alisdair Hamilton-Wilkes was thoroughly enjoying his dominance in the scrum before having the smile wiped from his face by a Met Police fist. The rumble that followed saw Hamilton-Wilkes and Met Police's flanker sent from the field for a ten minute rest. The un-lawful punch up seemed to inspire the strong arm of the law and as Woking's scrum crumbled with AHW off the field, the momentum of the game began to shift. Met Police grabbed two push over tries and a conversion before Woking returned to full strength and a tense final ten minutes began.
The physicality of the game was clearly showing on the wearying Woking legs. Injuries sustained by Steve Rhodes and John Stedman saw them leave the field of play. The momentum shift proved too much and despite continued brave defensive work by all Woking players, the tide and referee decisions had turned. Sustained pressure lead to three scrummages in the Woking 22 and with almost the last play of the game, Woking imploded and Met Police drove over under the posts for a converted try to take the game 24-19.
Captain Mike Aitchison fought back the disappointment, "I was proud to stand on the pitch with every single Woking player today. We showed a huge amount of heart and played by far the better rugby. Fitness dwindled in the closing minutes and the constant bruising onslaught of those giants took its toll on all of us. A fantastic team performance from which we can draw a huge amount of positives and pride moving on into the closing games of the season."