Narrow opening day defeat for Woking RFC

Raynes Park RFC 25 vs

Woking RFC 24

Woking RFC started their 23/24 Surrey Counties 5 league campaign with an agonising defeat away to Raynes Park. Despite losing skipper Jacob Woods to illness on the eve of the match, Woking under new Head Coach Mark Rose and with several new faces in the match day squad went into the tough season opener confident that all the hard work over summer would see them perform well.

Photo taken by Justin Cliffe
Photo taken by Justin Cliffe

Unfortunately, such optimism proved short lived as from the kick off Woking found themselves on the back foot with their kick off going straight into touch. With a clear game plan of utilising their large pack to keep the game tight and dominate the set pieces Raynes Park dominated the visitors in the early exchanges. Struggling in the scrums Woking conceded multiple penalties which allowed the hosts to camp on the Woking line. Despite some brave defence Raynes Park drove over for a converted try.

Not long after, more indiscipline saw Woking reduced to 14 men as debutant Jawad Sobhani saw yellow for cynically denying a try scoring opportunity for not retreating. Raynes Park opted for the scrum and went over. Conversion missed.

Slowly Woking were able to move up the pitch thanks to the efforts of stand in skipper Chris Wallis, John Dickie, and Jordan Baker. However, as a team Woking were struggling to find any cohesion or rhythm to their play. As the half approached its conclusion and no sooner had Woking returned to full strength Raynes Park were awarded a penalty try as Alasdair Hamilton-Wilkes infringed at the line out denying another try scoring opportunity.

With time running out Woking found some much-needed urgency and got themselves within 15m of the Raynes Park goal line. As the host conceded a penalty, quick thing by scrum half Chris Wallis saw him tap and go, catching several defenders off guard to go in under the posts. Aitcheson converted.

Half time: Raynes Park RFC 19 - 7 Woking RFC

Following the confidence boosting try before the break and some instruction from head coach Mark Rose Woking came out a different team. They upped their intensity and started to play to their strengths of spreading the ball wide to stretch the game and run the much larger Raynes Park pack around.

The match was much more evenly balanced. Raynes Park were struggling to contain the pace and direct running of the Woking back line. Centre Jordan Baker was proving to be a handful along with full back Keihlan Watson who was running everything back when the opportunity presented itself.

Woking scored their second try following good defensive play which saw the ball bounce fortunately from a tackle for Baker who collected cleanly and managed to hold off the covering defenders to score from 30m out. Watson added the conversion.

With the game in the balance Woking conceded a penalty that Raynes Park converted before more good play by Mike Aitcheson saw him make a break to feed Chris Wallis in support who managed take the ball up field before a quick one two with Aitcheson that saw him score his second of the game. Aitcheson converted. Both sides exchanged penalties meaning it was now a one-point game.

As Raynes Park looked to see out the game Woking were running out of time to get the decisive score and seal a dramatic comeback win. With just a couple of minutes left the Woking pack did well to turnover the ball which gave the backs a platform to attack from depth. Good hands again saw the ball end up wide to Jordan Baker who drew the last defender and feed the overlapping Keihlan Watson only for the pass to be adjudged as forward.

However, Woking were given an unexpected opportunity to win the game as the Raynes Park forwards conceded a late penalty as they looked to manage the final play of the game. Facing his final and most difficult kick of the day Mike Aitcheson stepped up only to drag his effort wide much to the relief of Raynes Park.

Watching from the sideline skipper Jacob Woods said, ‘The passion and determination the boys showed to get back in the game was immense. After a challenging start with everything going against them, they showed real character to drag themselves back into contention when not playing well. The truth is they were unlucky to be on the losing side as we dominated the second half. If we get our act together and play to our full potential, we are going to surprise a lot of teams this season’.

Final score: Raynes Park RFC 25 - 24 Woking RFC

Man of the Match – Alisdair Hamilton-Wilkes