Second-half Blitz Settles it . . . Emphatically for Combe
Westcombe Park 48 v Guildford R.F.C. 14
There are the best of times and there are the worse of times and this match was no less easy to watch for Combe supporters, for much of the time, than the two previous matches against Shelford and Sutton & Epsom, in fact in several matches this year since we lost our way against TJ's.
A point highlighted by Guildford's lead at the interval because Combe's second-half performances have not been too much to right home about of late and the performances in the second-half that we grew to know and love were but a distant memory.
What has kept them a memory, thank goodness, were the massive wins we have had in that time but in fairness, and due respect to the opposition, they were wins even before the refs whistles got them underway.
It was altogether different on Saturday, Guildford had given us a bit of a beating back in November back at their place, matching us defensively and with a good deal of speed on offer from the backs and it was felt that Combe would need a good start and at least a solid second-half but it didn't map out quite that way.
It started out as expected with early Combe pressure looking likely to produce points but Guildford stood firm and after 10 minutes kicked their way into Combe territory for the first time and with some deft touches were soon on the edge of the 22. Joe Garner only had to break a half tackle to go through the centre and between the posts. Bradley Smith converted with a drop-kick.
When Combe play their cavalier rugby it is very good to watch but can look clumsy when it doesn't come off and this first-half was littered with such mistakes. It took until the end of the first quarter before they managed to get it together enough for the first score and another twelve minutes before they added to it. Firstly, Ant Hitchcock shrugged off a couple of tackles to go over wide and then Tommy Gray outpaced a stretched defence to score the second try that Frankie Neale converted. That's more like it we thought! In fairness it was no more than Combe deserved because despite the mistakes they had dominated both possession and territory.
Two minutes after Combe had gone into a 12—7 lead Guildford made a rare visit into Combe territory and the same combination of Joe Garner and Bradley Smith carved out their second goal.
The next six minutes were not enough for Combe to get back, so the interval, was reached with Guildford enjoying an unlikely lead 14—12.
There must have been some pretty hard talking at the break because within twelve minutes of the restart Combe were leading 29—14.
Barely had it got underway and Frankie Neale had nudged Combe ahead with a penalty in front of the posts and not that far out. Then Bradley Saffery and Shaun Dixon had weaved and crashed their way over for tries and Frankie Neale had added the four points.
What followed was sixteen or seventeen minutes of sheer delight as the cavalier rugby returned unblemished by mistakes, well few, and the likes of Ant Hitchcock fielding the overheads and setting out on mazing runs to shred the Guildford defence and Fulcrum Forsyth standing just off the breakdowns and with the minimum of effort starting some scintillating moves. Pure entertainment!
With only ten minutes left Combe got down to business again and had seven clear chances to add points. Mark Davey (Man of the Match, apparently) was the first running in from short range for his try, converted by Frankie Neale and then a gap of seven minutes before, in short order Ant Hitchcock crossed for his second try and Lee Covington added the icing on the cake.
From the right Frankie Neale struck the post with the first and it somehow stayed out but safely slotted the second, and the game finished with Combe being awarded a penalty close to halfway and time didn't permit for anything other than a stab at the posts but it was pulled just wide.
I'm glad it wasn't me who had to pick the Man of the Match award (it was probably Dick Russ and Peter Johnson from the Wooden Spoon Charity) there were so many contenders. Most of the forwards and a good number of the backs must have been in contention and I'd still be making up my mind 4 days later!
Squad: Frankie Neale; Bradley Saffery, Ant Hitchcock, Dave Bonner, Tommy Gray; Bradley Bateup, Charlie Edwards; Jimi Stanford, Joe Bonner, Jamie (Fulcrum) Forsyth; Tom Clark, Charlie O'Sullivan; Mark Davey, Lee Covington, Shaun Dixon. Nick Porter, Dan Fox, Max Roddick.
Match Reporter: Mike Attewell. (thefillinginthepastry.com)