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For the first time this season Woking managed to put out an almost unchanged starting lineup. Just the one change in the front row with the absence of Rory Blundell, and the large gap left by Callum Wogan being filled by Neil Murphy. From inside the weather conditions looked beautiful, but the wind was swirling, and the low sun angle made conditions very difficult to play in. Woking warmed up well and the coaching staff had one clear instruction; quick ball, high tempo and push for the bonus point in the first half.
Woking set of at a rate of knots. James Bannister instrumental in controlling the pace of the game at scrum half was likened to a little terrier, barking at his forwards and digging the ball out of each contact area with glee. The pace was too much for Horley, who struggled to get their fringe defence set quickly enough to stop the onslaught of attack from Adam Smith. Smith, who lifts steel girders for a living, was handing defenders off for fun, sending three people flying as he smashed over for Woking’s first try of the day. Mark Rose looked confident with his first kick, perfectly dissecting the uprights.
Horley really had no options of safe places to kick from the restart, and the ball found the revved up Steve Rhodes who needs no handoff, just his pace and his considerable bulk. Rhodes broke tackle after tackle, only to be dragged down just short of the line, where Elliot Hood in support picked and crashed over the lineonly to be called back for an infringement. The warning signs were there for Horley though, and moments later after an incredibly dominant scrum, Adam Smith found the same hole in the fringe defence to go over for his second. Mark Rose casually slotted the conversions.
And so the story went on for the first half of the game. Woking dominated in the forwards, John Hursthouse and Matt Brennan doing an incredible amount of unsung dirty work, whilst Rose and Justin Dougherty controlled the game from 10 and 12. The conditions did not allow the ball to go wide, but the tight game was so effective there was little need. Hills danced over the try line, before Rose found a large gap in the 10-12 channel and placed Bannister in for 5. Both conversions slotted by Rose, who was clearly enjoying playing behind such a dominant pack. Hills capitalized on the packs dominance, picking from the base of a scrum to take Woking into half time with a lead of 35-0. Horley looked battered and their heads went down.
The wind died as the first half went on, and Horley, to their credit, sorted their fringe defence out just in time for the 2nd half to kick off with a change of tactics from Woking. Mark Rose stepped into the leaders role and began to get the outside backs ticking. This gave the Woking forwards some respite, and some beautiful switch plays between Rose, Dougherty and James Webber began scything Horley apart. Douglas-Arden looked notably comfortable in his new role at full-back. Easily gathering any ball that came his way, and deftly placing kicks deep into Horley territory after every attempted clearance kick. Gareth Nearn, who had openly been watching and studying videos of Jonah Lomu (RIP) throughout the week, had figured out how to hand off and use players momentum against them. He flew down the wing with balance and strength to score a beautifully crafted backs try.
Woking played some of the best rugby they’ve been seen to play for some time. Every player stepping up to the plate and leaving their mark on the pitch, including the three players off the bench, Armstrong, McGiven and Sayer, who brought fresh legs and great handling skills as the game opened up. If rugby was a piece of art, this would have been a masterpiece. The hands were magnificent, the audacity to try things was commendable , and the execution of set piece and set phase play was simply awesome. Even Alisdair Hamilton-Wilkes was enjoying himself! Woking ran in a few more tries for good measure, Smith picking up a total of 4, whilst Nearn finished off another beautiful outside backs move, and Rose continued to strike the ball from the tee with ease.
After the game Woking’s club captain Richard Grady beamed, “An extraordinary display of rugby. Tactically spot on, and executed with panache! A fantastic way to celebrate my 50th birthday! Well done all!”
LINE-UP: Alisdaire Hamilton-Wilkes, Steve Rhodes, Elliot Hood, Matthew Brennan, Jon Hursthouse, Phil robertson, Adam Smith, Dan Hills, James Bannister, Justin Dougherty, Gareth Nearn, Mark Rose, James Webber, Neil Murphy, Alex Douglas-Arden
SUBS: Matt Armstrong, George Sayer, Jim McGiven
MAN OF THE MATCH: Adam Smith