Woking RFC 15 vs

London French

RFC 19

Woking’s 2023/24 Surrey Counties 5 season ended in the same dramatic way as it started at Raynes Park back in September losing out in the final play of a fiercely contested match.

Photo taken by Justin Cliffe
Photo taken by Justin Cliffe

The hosts welcomed promotion chasing London French who needed a point to secure promotion to secure an immediate return to Surrey Counties 4 following Woking’s impressive victory over Raynes Park the previous Saturday.

Woking themselves were able to welcome back several more players from injury allowing Head Coach Mark Rose to take a watching brief as he named a squad of 23.

With a strong wind behind them London French kicked off deep into the Woking half. An uncharacteristic knock on from Carl Jacobz receiving the kick resulted in a French scrum 10 meters from the Woking line. Immediately, Woking were under pressure, and this continued throughout the opening exchanges with the visitors determined to stamp their authority on the match.

Defensively, Woking were working hard with several notable big hits from Jacobz and Charlie Godard stopping the French attacks which resulted in their opponents requiring lengthy treatment. Eventually, London French’s pressure told when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which was surprisingly missed.

A few minutes later more French pressure lead to Woking conceding multiple penalties as they struggled in the scrums. The promotion chasers pack camped on the Woking line and eventually crossed over from close range under the posts.

From the restart Woking were able to get a foothold in the game, enjoying time in their opponents 22m. French also had a kickable penalty to extend their lead, but this was missed. Then late in the first half Woking scored their opening try. Good play by the Woking pack, recycling the ball well through multiple phases of play, created the opportunity for scrum half Matt Ralph to feed centre Carl Jacobz who just about squeezed over the line to ground the ball despite the best efforts of 3 French defenders. The conversion out wide was missed.

Half time: Woking RFC 5 - 7 London French

Disappointed with the inconsistency of their performance in the first half Woking wanted to take the game to the French. However, once again the visitors started the half strongly and took control of the early exchanges and were able to extend their lead with a try out wide.

At this point Woking could have crumbled but instead went on to dominate the next 20 minutes. Half backs Matt Ralph and Mike Aitchison were becoming more influential in getting back rows Josh Claydon and John Dickie taking the ball at pace, second row Kieran Williamson was also showing well in the loose and centre Finlay Rowe and full back Keihlan Watson were starting to find gaps in the London French defence.

Woking were awarded a penalty which Carl Jacobz converted to reduce the deficit to 4 points. Able to rotate the squad, a luxury that hasn’t been there all season, Woking continued to take the game to French. More good play from the Woking forwards and backs sucked the defence in to create the opportunity for the returning KJ Nissen to go over. Jacobz converted and Woking now lead for the first time in the match with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Calling for cool heads Woking gathered the restart and recycled well and cleared their lines as Matt Ralph kicked deep towards the London French goal line. As French countered the Woking defence gave away a penalty which allowed the desperate French to gain territory and attacking position. With both sides scrapping to gain the upper hand, the French was awarded a scrum. Knowing it was the final play the ball arrived at the London French inside centre who in a moment of individual skill managed to step the on rushing Woking defence to break the line and score under the posts. As the conversion went over the final whistle went much to the delight of London French and disappointment of Woking.

Full time: Woking RFC 15 - 19 London French

Post match, Captain Jacob Woods who has had to have a watching brief over the second half of the season due to a knee injury said, “Being able to push a good side like London French until the end shows our progression over the course of this season. We matched them in every department but couldn’t quite close the game out. I am proud of the boys and the work and commitment they have shown this season. Having struggled towards the foot of the table in recent seasons, a 4th place finish is a great achievement and probably exceeded expectations.”

Chairman Andy Jones adds, “Mark (Rose) and Jacob (Woods) have led the boys brilliantly this season and it hasn’t always been straightforward. That said, I am sure the lads will be looking to improve on this next season, and I am extremely optimistic about the future of the club and encourage anyone looking for a club next season to get involved as a player, supporter, or sponsor.

Man of the Match: Finlay Rowe