Reeds show ‘True Grit’ to defeat Warlingham
WARLINGHAM 13pts REEDS WEYBRIDGE 16pts
A packed Warlingham touchline with both sets of supporters in full voice was the backdrop to this nail biting, titanic struggle between two evenly matched sides played on a pitch that was soft underfoot. It was Warlingham, undefeated at home this season and driven on by the partisan crowd and their big front eight that had Reeds defending desperately for most of the first half. The Warlingham game plan was to keep the ball tight, set up a series of rolling mauls and kick cleverly for territory to deny Reeds the opportunity to unleash their quick and elusive backs and it succeeded. Up front was a real confrontation with Reeds defenders, and in particular back rower Charlie Bolton, putting in some big hits right from the off as the Warlingham juggernaut rumbled around the park pinning Reeds down into defensive mode, but Reeds have an impressive defensive posture these days, illustrated by the performance of flanker Will Ambidge. A real pocket battleship of a player who gets through an outrageous amount of graft. His carries, tackles and ferocious work in the rucks earned him the Man of the Match Award. Herbie Finn, Reeds lineout specialist, called the shots at this set piece and he is such a thunderous ball carrier as well helping to keep Reeds try line secure for all of the first half. It was a breakout from centre Tom McLean that instigated the only try of the first half, against the run of play, McLean almost made it to the try line but good supporting running lines from Charlie Bolton and George Corner eventually saw Billy Maddock crash over by the corner. Reeds up fast in defensive mode, were always on the edge of the offside line and they conceded several kickable penalties, luck however was with Reeds as the home side kicker had a seriously bad day, succeeding with just one penalty before the change round. Bearing in mind, that Reeds had lost the territorial battle by some distance in the first half, preferring to clear their lines rather than put the ball through the hands as often as they might have usually done, and they were fairly satisfied to turn round with a two point lead together with a gentle slope and breeze in their favour.
It got slightly better just after the restart when Reeds fly half Jonny Rogers banged over a siege gun kick from way out to give Reeds a five point cushion. In the midfield, there were some big hits from both sides, perhaps Reeds looked the most dangerous with skipper Billy Maddock setting up rucks and mauls with his thrusting sidestepping runs, but they were up against a solid Warlingham blue wall which in the main shut down Reeds efforts to drive through the centres. It was that heavyweight Warlingham pack that set up the possession for their first and only try of the match, Reeds found themselves defending desperately with the Warlingham forwards pounding away with a series of rucks and mauls getting ever closer and it was lock James Delderfield that finally wrestled his way over under the sticks, the converted score giving the home side a narrow two point lead. Five minutes later, it got worse for Reeds, when fly half Archie Warren slotted a fairly simple penalty – Reeds were now five points adrift and they knew they had to get over the try line to get back on even terms. Reeds had the benefit of that gentle slope and they were looking the fitter side, the pressure that Warlingham had exerted on the tight scrums eased and Reeds gained the ascendancy in all phases of play for the last twenty minutes of the match – that in turn led to multiple attacks on the Warlingham line and eventually Josh Brown, the prop forward who is such a deadly force in these tight situations forced his way over the line, it was only a five pointer but it levelled the scores at 13 all. This was a contest that could go either way, but the smart money was on a penalty being the decider. That is what happened, in Reeds favour but with the added drama of the kick being marched ten metres closer to the posts after some back chat to the referee, Jonny Rogers slotted the three pointer and Reeds were in front. But the drama didn’t finish there, Reeds were now monopolising possession and territory and were close to scoring on two occasions only to be called back for marginal forward pass decisions. Warlingham however were not done and mounted another dangerous attack that took them deep within Reeds territory, the defence was too sharp off the mark, conceded the penalty, leaving Warlingham with the opportunity to kick to into the Reeds 22, where they could no doubt secure a lineout and have their big forwards rumble over the try line from short distance. However, the Warlingham kicker over cooked the situation, winger Chris Stegmann collected the ball and dispatched it out of sight for the end of the contest.
This was probably Reeds sternest examination of the season to date but they demonstrated that they have the players and the commitment to come back from adversity and grind out a win when the chips are down.
In two weeks’ time Reeds face Aylesford Bulls at home in the regional semi-final of the Senior Vase.