Boro' make spirited start to league campaign.
On a new surface at Steel Cross, with grass instead of weeds on the pitch, the class of 2017/18 got off to an encourage start to the new league season.
This was the first time that Old Williamsonians have visited Steel Cross, and the first league opponents to contest a game on the newly renovated Crowborough playing surface. For decades the heavy Wealden clay has got the better of a wealth of agronomists, with visiting teams coming pre-prepared for a forward dominated game in the infamous glutinous mud. But, thanks to significant investment by the club’s executive, and tremendous work by the senior groundsmen and the Friday Club, there is great optimism that the plantain covered pitch is now a distant memory, as a lush green sward now greets visiting teams that encourages open running rugby.
OW’s, gained promotion to London SE Div 3 from Kent 1 at the end of last season winning their play-off against Sussex 1’s Uckfield, whilst Crowborough at the same time dropped out of the second tier of the London League, and now have the aim of responsibly rebuilding the squad for a sustainable and long term future.
The previous days’ deluge, that would have put the fixture in doubt in previous seasons was barely in evidence as ‘Boro kicked off this new campaign. Immediately OW’s showed that they were not in this division purely to make up the numbers, taking the game to ‘Boro forcibly, with several juddering hits and off-loads to fast approaching support players. The Crowborough defence has undergone much improvement in the close season, and stood it’s ground, soaking up the pressure and pressurising the visitors into fumbling errors, before embarking upon their own attack programme.
As ‘Boro moved into the OW half, the OW backs were forced to concede a penalty some 45 metres out which Chris Yates
with an economy of effort stroked over the bar to open the scoring.3-0. To prove that this was no fluke, five minutes later he slotted a similar 40 metre effort to keep the scoreboard ticking over 6-0.
By now Crowborough were taking the initiative having got the measure of their opponents, and with fifteen minutes gone ‘Boro won a line out on the OW 10 metre line. The ‘Boro pack mauled the ball deep into the OW half when Matt Botterman broke free from the back, swatted away two attempted tackles, then avoided an attempted trip before working his way behind the posts for the try which Chris Yates
A Gary Stevens
interception saw him release Tom McMahon
who was brought down by a marginally high tackle. From the penalty Crowborough won the subsequent lineout and drove the maul over the OW line with Rob Horsfall-Turner
claiming the score. Yates converted to take the score to 20-0.
With the quarter drawing to an close ‘Boro committed the cardinal sin; believing the game was already won they firstly abandoned their press defence and then stood off from the tackle, giving OW’s just the confidence and opportunity they needed. OW’s then proceeded to dominate the next two quarters either side of the half time whistle.
As the OW centre, Ashley Smith, received the ball on the ‘Boro 10 metre line with a mis-matched front row in front of him and a back three that had apparently gone AWOL, he slipped the attempted tackle and untouched, strolled through to score wide of the posts. Callum Bowie converted 20-7 HT
The second half started in much the same vein, with OW’s confidence running high, their backs again moved the ball wide to wing Ben Shears. Showing a great turn of speed he put in a chip over the head of Nathan Connolly
and just won the foot race to the touch down that went unconverted. 20-12. The scoreboard ticked over further as Rob Horsfall –Turner was sin-binned for an indiscretion that resulted in OW’s adding a total of 15 unanswered points. 20-15.
At last under the urging of the ‘Boro coaching team, the ‘Boro XV got back on track, returning to their aggressive press defence, that had served them so well in the opening 20 minutes, causing the turnovers that they were not slow to exploit. At this point Chris Yates
was given the opportunity to extend the lead when one of the OW forwards came in at the side of the ruck, unfortunately the posts went begging and the penalty kick was missed.
The pack started to dominate as the OW eight tired, ‘Boro went through 10 ” pick and drives” making thirty metres, before Matt Botterman broke from the back feeding Tom McMahon
who in turn released Sam Kisbee
for what will surely be his easiest try of the season. Chris Yates
’s attempt from the far touchline rattled the upright and bounced in. 27-15
With ‘Boro’s confidence returning and the fourth bonus point try still a real possibility, the Crowborough eight continued to dominate the visitors driving them back this time down the right hand side, and with gaps appearing Andy Orchard
broke free, sprinting twenty metres to bring the game, which was excellently refereed by Connor Boyle, to an end with a Chris Yates
converted try. 34-15
Next week Crowborough travel to Crawley for their first meeting in several seasons.