It was a local derby to kick off 2017 for Woking II's as they travelled over to Stoke Park to face local rivals Guildfordians. With 3 home games, Woking knew it would be a strong second string they were facing, however with a strong team on paper there was confidence in the Woking camp. After a good warm up on a freezing day, it was ready to go with Woking attacking up the hill in the first half.
Woking started off with some good possession, however Guildfordians with a young enthusiastic pack challenged at every ruck. This lead to several turnovers and where Woking managed to hold on, it meant slow scrappy ball for Danny Collins. Despite the loss of possession, Woking quickly re-organised their defence and held the line impeccably, aggressive defence meaning that the opposition soon lost possession. This is a true testament to the efforts put in by the majority of the starting XV at training and the sterling work by head coach Pete D'Cruz.
In terms of the set piece, Woking had no issues. They secured their own scrums and put a lot of pressure on the Guildfordians scrum. This pressure lead to the first try with the back row trio of Jim McGiven, Ben Cooke and Shaun Gilbert charging down on the retreating Guildfordians backline. Several spilled balls later and outside half Mark Sargeson crashed onto the loose ball for 5 points. Despite having his lucky green kicking tee run on, he couldn't get the extras.
The rest of the first half continued in the same fashion with some good opportunities for Woking but not quite making the final pass or spilling the ball in bad conditions. Woking went close with a short lineout to Adam 'Chumlee' Hammond who was held up just short and winger Ben Hall who was bundled into touch within inches of the line.
Disaster almost struck for Woking with 30 seconds left on the clock. A smart break down the blind put the Guildfordians wing away for a certain try. However great chasing from wing Adam Hawkins stopped him just short. Back rower Ben Cooke was there to assist but was lucky not to be sin binned for professionally killing the ball at the ruck. The pressure was now on and Woking almost conceded due to bad organisation from the 5 metre penalty. However some fine defence knocked the ball loose and Danny Collins managed to clear to touch. Fine work from Shaun Gilbert at the line out resulted in messy ball for Guildfordians and a strong tackle by Matthew Brennan knocked the ball loose again to end the half.
After getting through a tough half playing uphill, Woking were feeling confident going into the second half. Captain James Plowright urged caution and told the players he expected the same level of commitment as the first half. There was to be no danger as Woking started the half with a bang, some great play from Ben Cooke and Shaun Gilbert from the kick off tore a massive hole in the Guildfordian defence. There was no need to use the overlap as inside centre James Plowright crashed through to score under the posts. It was the same story from the restart as strong runs from Jim McGiven and John Dickie allowed the platform to put James Plowright down the blindside for his second try in 5 minutes.
Guildfordians seemed to re-organise their defence & managed to get hold of some possession to test Woking again. Despite a few changes at half time, substitutes Martin Phillips, James Bannister and Gary Freeman slotted in effortlessly with all 3 making an impact. From further pressure, Sargeson put in a cross field kick. It looked like Freeman had dabbed down for his first score for the club, however the referee judged that a Guildfordians player had grounded it and a 5 metre scrum was awarded. The pack steamed through and Bannister collected the 5 points from short range. Despite having his lucky green tee, Sargeson again missed the two points.
Woking continued to press and it was only some valiant defensive work and clever play at the breakdown which slowed Woking's efforts. However, the Woking offence won again with a smart move from Bannister linking with Ben Cooke resulted in the back rower crashing over for his first try for the club. This took the score to 27-0. Unfortunately, the afternoon ended on a sour note shortly after with one of the Guildfordians players sustaining a nasty ankle break/dislocation which brought the game to an end.
Captain Jimmy 'The Gent' Plowright said after the game "Firstly, our best wishes go out to the Guildfordians player that he makes a speedy recovery. I was delighted in how we played today in both attack and defence, if we can perform like that week in week out, then we will be a force to be reckoned with in both league and cup competitions".
Tries: Sargeson, Plowrightx2, Bannister, Cooke
Conv: Sargeson x 1
Hamilton-Wilkes, Power, Hammond, Dickie, Brennan, McGiven, Cooke, Gilbert, Collins, Sargeson, Plowright, Hawkins, Hall, Smith, Cahalane. Subs: Bannister, Phillips, Freeman, Grady.
MoM: Ben Cooke