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Woking travelled down the A3 on Saturday to face Raynes Park on a wet and boggy pitch, nicknamed “the swimming pool” by the Raynes Park coaching staff. The pitch had an instant effect on the game, with Woking looking to spread the ball wide and tire out the opposition back row. Said back row showed frustration almost immediately with a series of late and illegal tackles both on and off the ball, as they attempted to slow down Woking advances.
Within the first couple of minutes, a strong run up the centre from Steve Rhodes disrupted the Raynes defensive line. Mike Aitchison, returning after a nasty forearm break back in October, was put in space down the left wing to open the scoring. The conversion missed. The following 15 minutes saw scrappy rugby, with niggling cheating off the ball across the park. As the official struggled to keep control, the Raynes Park support joined in to a ruck from off the touchline, and all hell broke loose! As the referee called over both skippers to talk with them and calm down both sides, Woking skipper Mike Aitchison was approached from behind and seeming shoved in the back. The response from Aitchison was to stand his ground and move round to face the Raynes flanker, and as the two squared up the teams rushed in and all hell broke loose once more!
With everything calmed down once more, the Raynes player was dismissed from the park for 10 minutes for foul play, before Aitchison was called over. There was a look of shock on all Woking players faces as the referee brandished a straight red card, deeming the squaring up as being a contact with the head. Aitchison walked from the park with a quietly hung head.
The next 10 minutes, with two 14 man sides, was frantic in attack from Woking, who continued to pull the Raynes defence from left to right. Young Alex Douglas-Arden was making advances down the left wing with each touch of the ball, whilst the big ball carriers of Elliot Hood, Steve Rhodes and Rory Blundell smashed up the middle. Raynes Park took advantage of two long range penalties, but Mark Rose orchestrated the game with skill, and crossed the line himself to take the scores to 12 – 6. Dan Hills crossed shortly after to take the half time score in at 19 – 6.
The scrappy nature of the game had really got the Woking lads fired up, with a clear goal in mind of securing a bonus point win, despite being a man down. The whole team pulled together and pulled out a very gritty second half, with Nearn and Douglas-Arden covering the back three excellently between them. Woking set piece was instrumental, Dan Hills at the centre of stealing almost every line out from the opposition to keep Woking in possession. Every advance towards the Raynes park try line seemed to fall just short, and the big boot of the Raynes no.10 sent Woking back down to start the advances again. And so the game went on, until finally Woking broke the line as a try was scored under a pile of bodies, Bremner claiming the try and Rose converting to make it 24 – 6.
Fresh legs in the form of Ben Dinsdale and Ross Cahalane gave a short respite for Woking’s tired legs, but Raynes Park had one final flurry, as the 14 man Woking finally tired, scoring a well worked break away try the length of the pitch. This was to be the final play of the game. Exhausted, the Woking lads filed off the park to be praised by coach Pete D’Cruz, “A gutsy performance, we have had to dig deep and this really shows the true nature of this team. Continue one game at a time and we can chase down the league leaders!”
Alisdaire Hamilton-Wilkes, Rory Blundell, Ben Bremner, Jon Hursthouse, Matt Brennan, Elliot Hood, Steve Rhodes, Dan Hills, Justin Dougherty, Mark Rose, Gareth Nearn, George Sayer, Neil Murphy, Mike Aitchison, Alex Douglas-Arden, Ross Cahalane, Ben Dinsdale