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Saturday 08th November
Woking 1/2’s 12 Esher V 12
With England's opening game of the Autumn Internationals kicking off at 14:30hrs, Woking's friendly against local rivals Esher was set for an early start to allow both players and supporters alike to take in both matches. Some of the older, less fit players of the Woking squad had been rested to allow their bruises, grazed knees and broken nails to heal. This presented a great opportunity for both first and second team players to integrate into one club side. Gaining his first captaincy of the season on return from a recent surprise anniversary trip to the US, flanker Phil Nash gave a rousing pre-match team talk and Woking kicked off fired up for the task ahead.
Woking held the dominancy in the scrums with their front five gelling well and providing secure set piece ball and turnovers as a platform for some sterling runs by number 8 Jon Steadman and flanker Josh Parker. It was from this they worked their way deep into the opposition half. Play cumulated with what should have been a bread-and-butter scrum for the home side just outside the Esher 5m line. However the ball shot out the far side of the scrum and was hastily scooped back in by a Woking hand. Unfortunately for the home side this was spied by the eagle eyed ref and Woking's onslaught ended abruptly.
Esher came back at Woking with gusto, recycling the ball quickly and effectively at the tackle area and keeping play alive with swift offloads. Their backs were pacey and Woking were dragged out of position as they tried to defend against the wide ball. Soon gaps appeared and Esher broke the defensive line and crossed the whitewash to open the scoring.
With one prop injured and no apparent replacement Esher called for uncontested scrums taking some of the wind out of Woking's sails. But with their Liam *****, Ryan England and Dan Edwards linking well in the backs Woking nudged their way up the park. A little chip kick into space however was picked up and defended slightly too well by Esher who exploited the turn over effectively and with strong running crossed for their second try making the half time score 0-12.
With an interesting half time analysis on the game Woking came back with a changed game plan of defending tight and not trying to cross the pitch to cover the wide balls and this proved to be largely effective. A reshuffle in the pack saw prop Alisdair Hamilton-Wilkes come on at hooker, Simon Power 'Puff' at tight head, Kieran Siddons on the flank and Ross Cahalane at scrumhalf. Esher also produced a prop substitute of their own and so the scrums retuned to contested.
But it was elusive winger Chris Wallis who produced his very own piece of magic to score Woking's first try. As Woking worked through the phases and inroad deep into the opposition half with another strong run by Steadman, the ball was spun out wide to Wallis on the right wing. It looked certain that he'd be brought down a yard short of the try line with three defenders on him yet somehow he managed to pirouette through the midst of them as if in a scene from Swan Lake and touched down unscathed for the home side's first points.
From the restart there were a number of knock-ons and play became very scrappy. Passers-by could be forgiven for thinking that they were viewing an amateur football match as the ball was unceremoniously hacked back and forth across the park for a period of play. Woking took advantage of this lapse in concentration and from a line out just inside the 22m line, Tom Smith went over to level the scores at 12 apiece.
As the game entered its final phases it was hard to tell if a bit of showboating had crept into the Esher side or whether their minds were fixed on the New Zealand game soon to kick off at Twickenham. Either way ball carriers held the ball in one hand, arm extended, champagne passes out the back door of tackles were thrown and even a few basketball flick passes across the pitch crept in as the game descended into what could be described as a misfit of sporting activates. Woking held their line firm and with relentless tackling somehow sustained wave after wave of attack from Esher, at times inches from the try line. Finally the pressure was eased with a cracking clearance kick by full back Gareth Phillips which took the home side up to their 10m line for the last play of the afternoon.
'A scrappy game at times' commented Captain Nash 'but encouraging to see that when on the back foot we dug deep, levelled the scores and then defended like the clappers. Definitely a lot of positives in there to build on, well done lads!’