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After a tough trip away and a loss to Raynes Park last week Woking faced Haslemere at home on Saturday down at Byfleet recreation ground. The forward pack had one change with big prop Ben Bremner returning to the starting position after a strong week of training, the backs line saw a healthy bolstering from the return of Dan Edwards and Callum Wogan, pushing Neil Murphy out on to his favoured right wing. The conditions were perfect, leaving no excuses for poor performance and so Woking took to the pitch in high spirits.
Haslemere, who ran Woking to a close game at theirs, seem to struggle with away fixtures, and as kick off drew near their lack of a 15th man became a concern. The 14 man Haslemere team stood resolute and for the first 10 minutes played out of their skin with particular ferocity in the tight. Woking’s game plan was clear, to keep ball retention, keep tight, and tire the Haslemere back row early. James Bannister marshalled his pack with ever growing confidence and after 15 minutes hooker Rory Blundell burst from the back of a maul to cross the line with the extras added by Justin Dougherty.
Credit to Haslemere, who responded quickly with some well-placed territorial kicking and a catch and drive from the ensuing line out that caught Woking napping as they grabbed a quick 5 points in the corner, Neil Murphy’s efforts to charge down the conversion proving fruitful. Haslemere’s next kick for territory drifted in field, finding the outstretched and experienced arms of Dan Edwards. Dan, with the running style of a gazelle, albeit slightly laboured gazelle, magically created himself a large enough space to slip through and returned the clearance kick back under the Haslemere posts in style, converted by Dougherty. 14-5. This proved to be Dan Edwards last input for the game as he left the field with an awkward looking knee injury. Matt Armstrong entered the arena and Mike Aitchison stepped to full back.
Haslemere, looking to test out the new Woking fullback placed a kick deep into the Woking half. Matt Edwards gathered the ball and found Aitchison with an oddly delayed pass. Some quick feet from Aitchison saw him follow a similar route to Dan Edwards as he skipped through the Haslemere chase and again returned the ball to under the posts to be converted by Dougherty. Half time score 21-5. It was plain to hear that Aitchison was no best pleased with his team's first half performance. Taking nothing away from Haslemere, Aitchison pointed out that Woking had dipped their gameplay to a slow pace, and so with a couple of changes to up the anti, Woking took off for the second half with the sun on their faces.
There was immediate impact from subs Hamilton-Wilkes and Josh Parker and Woking camped for the first 5 minutes of the half on the Haslemere try line. James Bannister was incredibly held up a couple of times, some counted 14 times, before both Jon Hursthouse and Josh Parker were held up over the line also, until at last the pressure gave Callum Wogan a chance to smash over the try line, conversion again by Dougherty. 28-5. The sustained pressure and the step up in pace saw further quick tries from Neil Murphy on the wing and a second for Callum Wogan after a smashing tackle sent the ball loose for him to gather and touch down. One conversion missed by Dougherty as he injured his thigh, Aitchison stepping in to convert the second. 40-5.
A resurgent Haslemere scored a well-constructed try, run in by their efficient backs line utilising the open space as the game freed up space. Woking brought Bremner and Riddell back into the fray to tighten things up, and the two combined wonderfully moments later to give Blundell a break and Matt Edwards a try, converted by Aitchison, 47-10. The final attack of the game came again through Blundell, Edwards, Riddell and Bremner, smashing their way up the field with the ever present Hills, Robertson, Hursthouse and Brennan in support. The latter four must be commended for the amount of “dirty” work they carried out throughout the day, always in support and always battling to secure Woking ball. Bannister shipped the ball out to Aitchison who used the big Wogan as a dummy runner to draw players before slipping through to touch down and convert himself.
The game came to an abrupt halt at 54-10 as a Haslemere player went down with a very nasty injury. We wish him all the best for his recovery. As the ambulance drove onto the pitch Aitchison had a brief word with his team, “A very solid team performance. It is easy to be complacent when the opposition are a man down, but despite the Haslemere gutsy performance we stuck to our game plan well and kept hold of the ball. An enjoyable day of rugby, well played to all.”