Old Wimbledonians U16s v Farnham U16s
Competition: Surrey Proxime U16 Waterfall President’s Cup semi-final
Date: Sunday 17 February 2019
Venue: Coombe Lane
Time: Midday Weather: Sunny, 14C
Referee: Paul Hale (society)
Old Wimbledonian Warriors starting XV: 15 Archie Brosch; 14 Luke Curtis, 13 Nathan Flannery, 12 Luca Buttaci, 11 Joe Scrivener; 10 Sonny Nicoll, 9 Harry Gibbons; 1 Nathan Jibulu, 2 Ollie Nangle, 3 Harry Humphries, 4 Padraig Finn, 5 Charlie Hancock, 6 Caleb Acquah, 7 Cameron Lewis, 8 Charlie Sinclair. Replacements: Cassius Cleaves, Josh Fagan, Jayden Hutchings, Daniel O’Regan Jones, Alex Paton, Charlie Shinn, Federico Willems.
The Old Wimbledonian Warriors are through to the final of the Surrey U16 President’s Cup after staging a terrific fightback to defeat Farnham 43-22 at Coombe Lane on the third Sunday in February. In the final Roger Brosch’s side will bid to avenge their close loss to Effingham & Leatherhead in the U14s’ 2017 title decider, and no wonder the Old Wimbledonians’ head coach was all smiles in the lead-up to the semi-final rumble with Farnham.
With it being half-term, a lot of Warriors were on the piste in Klosters and Davos getting in some winter rays and it looked as if the home side might struggle for numbers. But this particular vintage of Old Wimbledonians are nothing if not keen and after please-let-me-play requests from those Warriors who had to make do with Thorpe Park and Tooting Lido for their dose of February sun, Roger ended up being mob-handed in the hours leading up to kick-off time. Yes, the Galacticos were back and all felt good in the Warriors’ world, but there was still a match to win and Farnham were expected to be fully fired up after their 38-17 loss to the Old Wimbledonians in round one of the Quins Cup in January.
Most of the initial pressure came from Farnham, who were playing up the gentle slope at Coombe Lane, but the Warriors defended smartly at the outset and were soon on the attack themselves. However, the Monkton Lane side showed their defensive capabilities too when keeping out the OWs early on. It was fiercely competitive stuff from both sides but the first try went the way of the Warriors, who had been victorious at Weybridge Vandals and at home to Warlingham in the competition’s earlier rounds.
After some fine interplay, in which scrum-half Harry Gibbons and No. 8 Charlie Sinclair were in the thick of it from the off, a fine pass out wide from OWs captain Archie Brosch ended up reaching Joe Scrivener, who dived over on the left flank for 5-0.
Farnham’s response was to go on the attack immediately. They went close to the Warriors’ tryline but their charge was temporarily halted. The services of Cameron Lewis, who it’s always a pleasure to see turning out at Raynes Park, were unfortunately lost early on following a knock to the head. Federico Willems went on at prop with usual No. 8 Nathan Jibulu moving from No. 1 to the back row.
Moments later there was even greater concern for the home side when Luca Buttaci, who had played a blinder in the preceding week’s Quins Cup victory over Camberley, had to leave the field, also after a bang to the head. Archie, who had been starting at full-back in recent weeks, switched to centre with Cassius Cleaves going on at 15. The changes probably served to dent whatever flow the Warriors were trying to build up and with 22 minutes on the clock, Farnham gained reward for their early industry courtesy of a penalty kick in front of the posts.
With the visitors on the front foot and having eased their arrears to 5-3, the Warriors then went to sleep as they had done in the previous week against Camberley. With Farnham marauding, the ball went wide to the left flank and only two OWs gave chase. An easy try for the away side resulted and after a superb conversion from the visitors' fly-half, Farnham led 10-5.
It was the Warriors’ turn to step it up. The home side attacked again but Farnham defended comfortably. The Black & Whites from the western end of the Hogs Back were playing better than they had done a few weeks earlier. With Farnham then losing a couple of players - their tryscorer and ace kicker - to injury, the OWs had a chance to get their act together.
After a fine run from fly-half Sonny Nicoll, who went close to touching down, and good work from Joe and Padraig Finn, Caleb Acquah crossed the whitewash to level the scores at 10-10. Parity didn’t last long, though, as Farnham went ahead again in the wake of further ineffective defending from the Warriors. With the away try converted and the score at 17-10 in Farnham's favour, referee Paul Hale blew for the interval in a match in which a draw would not be enough for the Old Wimbledonians to progress to the final. The defensively porous Warriors were under serious pressure against Farnham, who had produced a superior first-half team performance.
After the break the Warriors were playing uphill - and something needed to change. Having spoken to his squad, Roger made only one change with Jayden Hutchings going on at right-wing in place of Luke Curtis. Jayden was soon in the thick of the action and he produced a fine run down the flank. Alas, the charge came to nothing, but moments later Caleb crossed over on the left wing for his second try of the match. After two difficult conversion attempts in the first half, Sonny kicked a beauty to level the scores at 17-17.
The Warriors now had more wind in their sails as Farnham’s hooker, whose pace had troubled the OWs in the Quins Cup, went off after sustaining a knock. With reliable tighthead Harry Humphries having hurt his toe, Josh Fagan went on at prop. Daniel O’Regan Jones also took to the field with hooker Ollie Nangle making way.
After some great ball-handling from Charlie Hancock, Nathan broke though the Farnhamites’ defence and touched down under the posts. Sonny kicked for 24-17.
Daniel then went close to notching a try but knocked it on close to home. Following a scrummage, Archie collected the spinning ball which led to Josh crossing over. Sonny converted for 31-17. Alex Paton went on for Jayden and with the home fans finally able to breathe easier, Padraig, who is really starting to
believe in himself on the pitch, showed commendable tenacity to cross over for 36- 17. Not long afterwards Archie joined in the try scoring fun and Sonny converted for 43-17.
Farnham’s valiant effort in the first half had clearly taken its toll and following a request from the away side for uncontested scrums - a plea which was okayed by captain Archie - the visitors then mounted a succession of carries to post their third try of the match.
With the score 43-22, Nathan suffered a bout of cramp and Jayden was sent back on. Charlie Shinn, so often unavailable after a raft of injury woes, was afforded a late run-out when replacing Nathan Flannery, who had performed solidly at centre. But Shinny’s outing didn’t last long as he was sin- binned for throwing the ball at an opponent, an action he subsequently apologised for.
Farnham pressed again late on but with an away player needing attention, the break saw their attack peter out. The OWs defended more resolutely after the interval and denied their guests further point scoring until the final whistle. The popular vote on rugby app Teamer named two-try hero Caleb and eternal battler Padraig as joint-recipients of the Warriors’ man-of-the-match award. This seemed a perfectly reasonable decision given that it was a magnificent effort from the entire team, rather than any particular stand-out individual performance, that helped to turn the match on its head.
Coach Roger said: "We showed terrific grit and picked ourselves up well when we needed to and ran out impressive winners in the end against a very good team.”
Updated 08:17 - 7 Mar 2019 by David Doran
Warriors scorers: Tries: Scrivener, Acquah 2, Jibulu, Fagan, P Finn, Brosch. Conversions: Nicoll 4