1st XV 17th February 2018
Weybridge Vandals 27 - 32 Warlingham RFC
Warlingham RFC Director of Rugby Nick Warren masterminded a seventh league victory in a-row when his squad overturned a twelve point deficit, and survived a late onslaught, to win a scintillating London 3 South-West fixture.
Trailing 15-3 after thirty minutes, Warlingham responded with twenty-nine unanswered points, including four tries to secure the full five points on offer and move a step closer to league safety.
Earlier, Warlingham arrived at Brownacres in fine form, unbeaten in 2018 and narrowly beating Portsmouth last time out. Warren made only two changes to the starting line-up with energetic Alex Sampson named at scrum-half and Simon Townsend adding experience at prop.
Vandals were fast out the blocks, showing their intent early by using their big ball carriers to brutal effect. The home side enjoyed long periods of possession, creating a couple of try-scoring chances only to be denied by last ditch Warly defending. Vandals deservedly took the lead from a well struck penalty when Warlingham were penalised at the breakdown, 0-3.
Fighting for their London 3 status, Vandals stepped up another gear, playing at a fast tempo and moving the ball with precision across the field. Warlingham defenders uncharacteristically falling off tackle attempts. Continuous attacking pressure from the hosts was rewarded when they created an overlap to dot down wide left for the afternoon’s first try, 0-10.
A rare opening quarter visit into the Vandals half resulted in a penalty 45 yards out for the visitors. Fly-half Joe McEvoy continued were he left off against Portsmouth and reduced the host’s lead to 3-10.
However, it wasn’t long before Vandals were troubling the scorers once again, taking full advantage of a poor Warlingham clearance kick. The home backline returned the ball with interest, taking play deep into opposition territory. Quickly recycled ball was moved to the speedy Vandals winger, who beat his opposite man to cross the whitewash in the right corner. The conversion attempt sailed wide but the hosts looked comfortable at 3-15.
Gathered underneath the posts, Warren made several tactical changes before demanding a reaction from his players. It came immediately after the restart when the electric Kieran Rickell smartly intercepted a loose pass to put Warlingham on the ascendance. Vandals were forced into an infringement. McEvoy kicked to the corner in a bold attempt to get his side back in the game, and it proved to be the correct decision. The powerful Warlingham pack led by the enforcer Paddy Green and lineout specialist Alex Wingfield, rumbled towards the Vandals try line. Replacement Hooker Jonathan Fox crashed over for the visitor’s opening try. McEvoy was clinical from the tramlines and Warly were back in the game, 10-15.
Despite Vandals dominating the first half, Warlingham managed to reduce the deficit to two points when the rhythmic McEvoy punished the hosts again from the tee, 13-15 at the break.
The momentum stayed with Warlingham at the beginning of the 2nd half. Centre David Priest produced one of his characteristic 30 yard bursts. Vandals were again penalised at the breakdown within McEvoy’s range however on this occasion his penalty attempt just missed the right upright.
A clever chip from McEvoy into the 22 was bravely cleared up by the Vandals full-back before he was smashed into touch by the onrushing Priest. Unfortunately, Priest caught an unintentional elbow to the left eye and had to leave the field with a nasty cut. The versatile Fox moved from hooker to inside centre, Rory Kavanagh slotted back in the front-row.
From the line out, the Warlingham pack was at it again. A cleanly taken catch from Wingfield and technically superior drives from Alex Kelly and veteran Alex Nunn saw the visitors cross the try line only to be desperately held up by Vandals. However, from the resulting five metre scrum, the theme continued. Vandals had no choice but to the collapse a retreating scrum, the referee raised his arm and headed under the posts to award the penalty try, 20-15.
The drama continued when a huge box-kick down the middle of the pitch from Sampson, bounced over the back peddling Vandals players and kindly into the arms of the chasing Fox. 50 yards out and with no blue and white shirts in support, Fox pinned his ears back and set off for the try-line. He did brilliantly to keep the covering defence at bay and bundle over the line for his 2nd try, 25-15.
Warlingham were starting to dominate possession. Substitute Connor McDonald and James Delderfield carrying the ball with purpose, bashing holes in the Vandals defence. An accurate penalty kick to the Vandals 22, created the platform for another devastating catch and drive from the marauding Warlingham forward unit. Crashing over the try line in the right corner, this time veteran Kavanagh taking the plaudits. McEvoy accurate from the tee, 32-15.
With the try bonus point secured, Warlingham were guilty of taking their foot off the gas and to Vandals credit, the home side scored two well taken tries in quick successions to set-up a nail-biting final five minutes.
However it wasn’t to be for the hosts as a lineout throw off the final play went astray before Sampson cleared the ball of the pitch to bring the final whistle. Both supporters treated to eight tries and a highly entertaining game of rugby.
Warren said after the match, “I was disappointed it took us thirty minutes to get into the game but you have to admire the player’s reaction from going behind to securing the victory plus the try bonus point”. “Weybridge Vandals are a good side and they really tested us today”.
Updated 17:21 - 21 Feb 2018 by Gina Mattison
Victory for Warlingham sees them move further away from the relegation zone however with difficult fixtures coming up in March, including the visit of league leaders Old Cranleighans for Warlingham’s annual Golden Oldies event on Saturday 3rd March.