Agonisingly close loss for the Hammers 1st

Hammersmith & Fulham 1XV made the long and arduous bus trip away to Chichester, with storm Eunice still in full force, the journey down was marred by torrential rain and what seemed to be every fallen tree in South-East England in our path. However, with some high-speed back road driving to rival that of Colin McRae, the boys made it in good time with nerves near shot and pants half soiled.

After a swift change of underwear, the 1XV headed out to test the pitch and conditions. After extending his finger and testing the wind speed, Pete Bicknell headed back inside to reinforce his toupee with the strongest glue on the market, reinforcement successful. With some steadfast pitchforking by the home groundsman, the pitch was deemed playable, and the match was on.

A fitting minutes applause in memory of Evesham RFC’s Jack Jeffery preceded the game, with the home crowd providing ample noise from the balcony of the Oaklands Park clubhouse. Hammersmith and Fulham had the kick-off, playing with the wind into the clubhouse end. In true wet weather fashion, the game started with a myriad of back-and-forth mistakes with both teams vying for possession and field position. However, with a string of driving kicks from fly half Joe Carolan, Hammers had Chichester pinned in there own 22m. First blood went to the Hammersmith 1XV, with the forward pack carrying strongly through the gain line, Hammers were awarded with a penalty advantage for offside. Under advantage, a speculative long pass to space on the left side of the field was made by scrum half Matt Newman, gladfully received by the hands of fullback Jack Hooper. With quick feet, Hooper broke the first tackle creating a two on one opportunity on the wing with Ricky ‘Dane Coles’ Drewitt. Drewitt flew down the wing like a migrating swallow and touched down for a 5 pointer just metres infield from the touchline. Carolan converted with a well measured kick in testing conditions to make it 0-7.

Chichester replied soon after with a line break from the number 10 connecting well with his teammates behind the Hammersmith line, a few short picks from there saw Chichester score on the left side of the field, conversion attempt missed. 5-7, the game was on a knife edge once again. With the standard back and forth of territory resumed, Hammersmith were penalised on the 22m, Chichester chose to kick for posts which would prove to be a pivotal decision come the end of the game. Penalty slotted, 8-7. Despite being behind, the set piece was operating well with the Hammers forward pack dominating this facet of play. With hooker Angus Brown regularly getting his balls cleaned from the side-line by replacement Zander Stephen, the line-out was firing on all cylinders, providing the back line with a good platform to try and navigate the rapidly declining turf. Chichester were next to cross the white wash from a fast and well organised kick return managing to break through the Hammersmith press, the Hammers were now on the backfoot looking to level the game, 15-7. Fortunately, light fingered captain Carolan managed to best his opposite number by charging down a kick from hand, gathering the ball mid-air and running in under the posts untouched. A much simpler conversation attempt now faced Carolan, who casually stepped up and slotted the ball between the uprights, 15-14. These points were the last scored in a closely fought first half.

With the rainy conditions gradually lightening, Chichester kicked off the 2nd half, with the home team now playing into clubhouse, much to the delight of the loud home crowd. Now against the wind, Hammersmith spent the first few minutes of the second half pinned in the 22m. Chichester’s strong kick return saw them behind the Hammers line, with quick ball available quickly for the halfbacks. A well delayed pass from the Chichester 10 saw his centre partner punch through a gap, chip kick over the last defender, and float the ball into the in-goal area. A scrappy 50/50 contest for the ball over the line then ensued that Legolas himself would have struggled to see. Regrettably, the referee had his elf eyes on that day, and the try was awarded as a Chichester touch down. A simple conversation successfully followed, 22-14. A good patch of Hammersmith pressure saw the boys with a scrum on the Chichester 10m.

Continuing their dominant display, front row partners Drewitt, Brown, and Rogan pulled together to send the Chichester pack backwards towards their own line. Control at the base from 8 Alex Hart saw the Hammers scrum romp forward to what seemed an inevitable penalty try. The scrum then collapses with the bogy pitch giving away under foot. No matter, Hammers retain the ball and recycle, the forwards display good control with short, close to the line play. 1XV debutant Tom Proctor then powered over the line with a little help from his friends for a well earned try on debut, Carolan’s flawless performance off the tee continued, 22-21. Hammersmith then emptied the bench for a dose of fresh legs and clean shirts with Bray, Stephen, and Dugdale taking the field. With the wind firmly behind their backs, Chichester were able to effectively clear their line, starving Hammersmith of any meaningful territory. Resolute defence by both teams saw the majority of the remaining minutes played in the middle of the field, with the now swamp like turf making the pill increasingly difficult to handle. With fatigue now setting in, penalties were traded backwards and forwards between the teams, with each team gladly kicking long to touch. Osgood then dramatically drops to the floor as if a snipper lay in the distance, the dreaded double calf cramp had set in. Flailing on the floor like a toddler at the dentist, the physio runs on to provide Osgood with some much-needed relief. With the result in their favour, Chichester tighten up the game to retain the ball and run down the clock. Hammersmith blitz the remaining rucks in an attempt to win the ball back in the dying seconds for a final opportunity to win the game. The Hammers boys final effort was deemed overexuberant by the referee, who raised his arm to mark a penalty to Chichester. The ball was tapped and sent long over the touchline, the final whistle shrilled, ending the game 22-21 to the home side.

The 1XV look to redeem themselves in their next fixture at Hurlingham against Battersea Ironsides in two weeks times.

Ricky Drewitt x 1
Joe Carolan x 1
Tom Proctor x 1

Joe Carolan x 3