Woking v Old Haileyburians

Match Date: 
Woking Team: 
First XV
Opponent Team: 
Old Haileyburians


Woking Score: 
Opponent Score: 

The much anticipated title clash between Woking and Old Haileyburians took place on Saturday down at Byfleet Recreation Ground. The pitch was immaculately turned out and crowds of supports turned up to line the touch from both clubs. Even Old Johnians, who were again given a full 5 point walkover after their opposition failed to put a team together, turned up and took up residence with the Old Haileyburians supporters. Clearly the Old boys clique is stronger than the rugby community. Woking lost three key players during the week, Joe Bennett out to a back injury, Elliot Hood out to a hand injury, Mark Rose briefly returning to injure himself at training, and Adam Smith suffering from a chest infection, but the starting line up was still strong and was further bolstered when Adam Smith turned up with kit from his death bed.

And so the game began. Nerves set in from the off as the opening kick failed to reach the 10m line into the wind. Woking front row Al Hamilton-Wilkes, Rory Blundell and Ben Bremner walked over grinning from ear to ear, and the scrum flew forwards. OH hooker and no.8 did an excellent job of getting the ball out from their backwards moving scrum, and off set the OH backs. The Woking defence stood solid, Callum Wogan leading the way with some early big hits, and the ball was knocked on for another scrum. This pattern of play ensued for the opening 15 minutes, with each team feeling the other out to try and find a weak point. Despite losing the talismanic Adam Smith to an ankle injury, Woking were dominant in the scrum, gaining several free kicks and penalties, whilst the lineout was closely contested. Both teams fringe defence was impenetrable, and the game quickly became open as the spaces were found out wide. Aitchison, with a Sexton like wrap around move found himself on the outside of the OH defence, and a nice interlink with winger Matt Armstrong looked to be a certain scoring opportunity, until the luck of the day swung in OH favour. The last defender to beat read the inside pass to Calum Wogan, intercepted, and hared off down the pitch to score the opening points.

The game continued in the same vein, both sides chipping away at each other, OH certainly with the advantage out wide and Woking with the advantage in tight. Another strong attack from Aitchison, Robertson and Wogan gave Armstrong another crash towards the try line, but held up Woking returned for a scrum on the OH 5 meter line. Unbelievably, as the Woking scrum powered forward, the referee turned the ball over to OH, suggesting that Woking were purposefully wheeling. Despite the pleas of Aitchison, who was asking why on earth Woking would want to do this, the referee (from Chobham) turned against the Woking scrum. The tide turned. OH, scrum in disarray, but with the backing of the official, now had the advantage out wide and in tight. Woking just held on with some desperate tackling from Neil Murphy and Gareth Nearn to go into half time at 0 – 5.

Woking were left searching, cruelly behind in points, and feeling aggrieved at a number of decisions, coach Pete D’Cruz pulled his men together and told them very simply to go out and leave it all on the pitch. Woking returned fired up and ready to take the game to OH, and set off to attack the wider channels where there was space. Steve Rhodes was absolutely phenomenal, the stand out player of the match, and was everywhere, securing every ruck and almost single headedly tackling every OH player. Spurred on by his efforts the rest of the back row began to drag themselves into the game and Woking looked to start to turn the tide once more. And then the luck struck bottom again. Dan Hills off the base of a scrum picked and went blind, the ball in his outstretched and normally sticky hand he looked to pop the offload to Aitchison who was in acres of space outside. The ball went loose, the bounce went away from him, and OH scooped the ball up once more to run in a second try under the posts, this time converted.

Despite the strong words of encouragement from all Woking players and fans alike, and despite the pride instilled to lift the heads up and take the game back to OH the damage had been done. Two breakaway tries, which on another day this season would have resulted in Woking points, completely killed Woking spirits. James Webber brought a brief glimmer of hope as he came onto the pitch and glided through the OH defence on a number of occasions, but the support was never there, and the OH very solid defence stood resolute. Yet another turnover out wide and the killer blow was struck. OH, who had certainly had the better of Woking out wide all game, sent a huge looping pass out over the centres. Their fullback and winger linked up beautifully and a final pass to their unnecessarily gobby no.9 saw a finish to a try that sealed the OH league title and put the sword to Woking. Credit where credit is due, this was a very well worked try that came as a result of some excellent defence. The game closed at 0 – 17.

2nd April sees the last game of the season. Woking are still in with a chance of promotion if they secure 5 points against Old Oundelians, but they also require 2nd place Old Johnians to pick up no points at home to Egham. The season was not lost for Woking on Saturday, the season was lost earlier in the year with two extremely disappointing results against Old Oundelians and Raynes Park. Owen Farrell spoke words later that evening that rang true for all the Woking players, “Defeat and failure are stepping stones on the way to success.” Woking will continue to progress, and still have cup chances and an outside chance of promotion before the season ends.

1. Alisdaire Hamilton-Wilkes
2. Rory Blundell
3. Ben Bremner
4. Matt Brennan
5. Jon Hursthouse
6. Adam Smith
7. Steve Rhodes – Man of the Match (by a mile)
8. Dan Hills
9. Justin Dougherty
10. Mike Aitchison
11. Gareth Nearn
12. Phil Robertson
13. Callum Wogan
14. Matt Armstrong
15. Neil Murphy

16. Matt Childs
17. George Sayer
18. James Webber