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Haslemere 12 - 19 Woking
Saturday 22nd November
Woking traveled over to Haslemere on Saturday for a continuation of the Surrey 4 league. A number of midweek injuries and illnesses brought the return of Neil Murphy and Gareth Philips into the Woking back line, whilst injury to Steve Rhodes in last weeks victory over Raynes Park opened up a returning place for Phil Nash.
The weather was wet, grey, foggy and cold, determining that the style of play should be predominantly forward pack based in the slippery conditions. Skipper Aitchison sent the kick off low along the ground to test the Haslemere hands, who coped well until tackled and with ball spilling forward Woking took the first scrum of the day.
Ben Bremner, Rory Blundell, and Marc Ridell are proving to be a formidable front three this season for Woking, and with Haslemere "priding themselves on their scrummage" the Woking front three were expecting a tough day. A tough day it was, for Haslemere. The scrum flew forwards and from the quick clean ball Woking shipped the ball wide to strong running winger Gareth Nearn. A number of quick phases culminated in an excellent first try for Woking with Gareth Philips placing Neil Murphy in for 5.
Despite Haslemere's best efforts to get up the hill into the Woking half, an excellent kicking game from no. 10 Aitchison and no. 15 Edwards, coupled with excellent chasing from the wingers kept Woking pressure on. The welcome return of Dan Hills proving too much for Haslemere in the air as lineout after lineout was stolen. Despite the best efforts of James Bannister to butcher the simplest of tries, Woking crossed the line once more with Dan Hills showing his skill on the ground, stretching a long sticky arm to place the ball down after quick hands from Phil Robertson in the wet conditions found him some space.
Haslemere's no.10 attempted some poorly executed kicking, struggling to find space or touch, a feat he continued to do throughout the match. One such kick found the open arms of Dan Edwards at fullback who cruised though the flailing defence, linked with Nearn who dodged one, then two, before placing Neil Murphy crashing under the posts for the try. Converted by Edwards. 17-0 at half time.
The second half was a very different story. The hill and the fitness levels turning the tide. Haslemere 9 and 10 combination cranked up the pressure on Woking, drawing them into a close quarters battle, lacking finess, but showing dogged determination. For 20 minutes Woking's defence stood firm as Haslemere frustration visibly rose. Off the back of a disrupted Haslemere scrum the ball found Haslemere backs who finished off an excellent set piece move with no.15 wrong footing Aitchison, leaving him abash. Conversion missed.
Moments later a similarly well constructed set piece off the base of another disrupted scrum placed Haslemere no. 12 under the posts, and the final 5 minutes of play were both fraught and tense with the scores at 12-17. Woking, as had been the case for the majority of the day, stood resolute. Jon Hursthouse leading from the front with tackle after tackle won himself man of the match, closely followed by the remainder of the Woking forwards who had a truly solid performance. A last minute change to front row, with Alisdair Hamilton Wilkes replacing Ben Bremner, saw the final scrum of the day go flying forwards, stealing the Haslemere ball and clearing to touch to secure the victory.
Captain Aitchison commented, "Despite the conditions we played some superb flowing rugby in the first half. Getting drawn into a hard up front battle nearly cost us the game, but we recovered well and defended like heroes. Another very promising team performance."