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On a glorious day for rugby Woking took to the pitch in need of a point to keep chasing team Horley at bay. Reigate have had a great season, being the only team to upset league leaders Reeds Weybridge and having gone the full season unbeaten at home. The Reigate team set off at a pace of knots, racking up two quick tries after some poor tackles from the Woking pack, converted by skipper Sam Whitman.
Woking, spurred on by their ferocious forwards coach David Nolan's threat of making the team do press-ups on the pitch at half time if they didn't front up in the contact area, bounced back quickly with two successful turnovers and strong running into the Reigate half from Phil Robertson, Matt Brennan and Mike Aitchison. But for illegal infringements Woking would have crossed the line twice, but instead settled for two converted penalties by Justin Dougherty to keep the score ticking over.
After a third try was run in by Reigate's marauding number 8, despite some great covering tackling from Aitchison and Andy Hussey forcing what looked to be a knock on, fullback Gareth Philips was sent from the field for 10 minutes for abuse of a match official. The card was extremely harsh, particularly as the abuse was aimed at the players stood behind the referee, however there is no place for foul language on the field of play. The restart was left high and hanging by Aitchison and Woking got underneath it forcing a knock on from Reigate. For the first 30 minutes of the game Reigate had dominated the set piece, but Woking had the fire in their bellies and the scrum heaved forwards providing a lovely platform for Aitchison, Dougherty and Callum Wogan to combine and place Matt Armstrong in for a break to the corner. A try saving tackle was quickly blown over by the Woking pack in support who rucked, mauled and dogged the ball over the try line, Rory Blundell scoring an uncharacteristic forwards try. The conversions proved that Woking confidence was high, Justin Dougherty sailing the ball through the uprights from the far left wing. 19-13 at half time.
The Reigate crowd were in fine form, with a full turn out from the old brigade who were in full song throughout half time, clearly enjoying the fine display of rugby and the perfect weather conditions. The crowd were soon quietened as Woking went full steam ahead for the entire second half. Aitchison was in fine form both in attack and defence, the combination of two no.10s (Aitchison and Dougherty) on the same side giving Woking attacking options left, right and centre. Dan Hills was tearing the Reigate defence apart, closely followed through every gap by Jon Hursthouse, Alisdair Hamilton-Wilkes, Ben Bremner and big John Stedman. The support play was scintillating. Reigate defended their tryline fiercely, conceding a further converted penalty to bring the scores to 19-16.
Matt Edwards orchestrated attacking phase after attacking phase, with substitutions Tommy Roberts and Tom Smith adding a strong running dynamic in broken play. Yet still Reigate stood resolute. A quick turnover and a break out from the Reigate 22 took Woking back into their half for the only time of the last 40 minutes. Magnificent scramble defence from Woking's Aitchison, Smith and Blundell showed the true heart the Woking team has when they want to win a game. A deft kick back over to Reigates corner by Aitchison was chased down by the entire Woking team who bundled Reigate out into touch. Hills gathered from the lineout and Woking looked sure to drive over to clinch the game, but Reigate brought the maul down illegally. Faced with two options, kick for the draw, or push for the victory, Aitchison elected to scrum, putting full faith in the forward pack who had the wind in their sails and the upper hand in fitness. The scrum was nothing short of perfection. Marc Riddell, Ben Bremner and Rory Blundell turned their opposition front row inside out and upside down, whilst the powerhouse of Hursthouse, Stedman and Brennan blasted the Reigate pack back, 5m, 4m, 3m, perfect control from Robertson at the base of the scrum, 2m, 1m, pick, go, and over the tryline! Dougherty added the final 2 points to close the game in emphatic style at 19-23.
Aitchison and his team beamed with pride, "We wanted the game more, and we took it. A truly gutsy squad performance and a perfect way to finish a successful but frustrating season. Today we did the Woking badge and colours proud! Traveling with a full squad of 22 players, with subs knowing they may not get a game, but giving everything in support of the team really shows how much we have grown as a club this year. The 2nd team have gained back to back promotion and the 1st team is a force to be reckoned with when all fully fit! What a game!" Woking finish the league in 4th, with 58 points. A significant improvement on last year that puts them in good stead to push for the top spot next year. Our congratulations to Reigate and Reeds Weybridge who gain promotion. Next week Woking celebrate their club with President's Day, playing three games throughout the duration of the day.