It wasn’t pretty but Warlingham RFC started festive celebrations early by returning to winning ways on Saturday, when they gained revenge over local rivals Old Whitgiftians at Hamsey Green. In freezing conditions and with the rain lashing down for the entire 80 minutes, it was never going to be a classic derby encounter but the Mighty Warl did enough to secure the win, plus the try bonus point to finish 2018 on a high.
Missing their talisman and top points scorer, Joe McEvoy, Warlingham were forced to rejig their backline, with rare starts for player-coach John Hosken and veteran Mark Kozminski. It was Kozminski with the first chance to put points on the board however his penalty attempt was blown off course and the game remained nil-nil. With the wind at their backs, the visiting Old Whits enjoyed long periods of possession. Ex-Warlingham player, Andy Marshall executing an impressive kicking display by pinning Warlingham back in their half at every opportunity. Warlingham defended bravely but consistent pressure finally told when the home side was penalized for offside in midfield. The Old Whits kicker nailing the simple penalty, 0-3 to the local visitors.
The theme continued with Old Whits dominating play inside the Warlingham half. Only last ditch defending kept the visitors from crossing the whitewash. However, it wasn’t long before Warlingham were again guilty for being off-side and Old Whits extended their lead to 0-6. Before halftime, Hosken was penalised for not rolling away, preventing Old Whits from playing quick ball inside the Warly 22. The referee had no choice but to send Hosken for a 10 minute breather. The Old Whits kicker again making no mistake with the simple kick, 0-9 at halftime and a much deserved retreat to the changing rooms for both sides.
Warlingham returned for the second half, roared on by a home crowd in excess of 200 that had braved the elements to cheer on their team. As expected, Warlingham now with the wind and the slope were starting to exert pressure on the Old Whits defence. Strong carriers from the dynamic Paddy Green and mobile George Bench causing problems for the visitors. A smart off-load from replacement Richard Hayward, created the space for Harry Spencer to slide over in the left corner. Warlingham were on the scoresheet and back in the game, Kozminski’s conversion attempt from the touchline sailing wide, 5-9.
Soon after the restart Warlingham were awarded a penalty on the halfway line. Kozminski used his big boot to good effect, finding touch 5 yards out from the Old Whits try line. A solid lineout laid the platform for youngest Spencer to bundle his way over the white line for his, and Warlingham’s second try of the afternoon. Kozminski adding the simple extras and the home side were in front for the first time in the match, 12-9. Old Whits seemed to be struggling with the deterring conditions, and the task didn’t get an easier for them when giant centre, David Priest decided to take the game by the scruff of the neck. A barnstorming 30 yard run from Priest, leaving several Old Whits defenders in his wake as he dotted down in the right-hand corner to extend Warly’s lead, 17-9.
The hosts went in search of the vital try bonus point in order to celebrate Christmas in style. The home supporters didn’t have to wait long as Priest replicated his power and pace to break through and finish sliding in the left corner, 22-9.
Warlingham RFC Director of Rugby, Nick Warren quoted after the match, “Today was a disciplined performance in trying weather conditions. We showed our control and did not give away too many penalties. We’re starting to show maturity which will be vital when we return to league action after Christmas."
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at Warlingham RFC!
Updated 10:50 - 18 Dec 2018 by Peter Upton