Westcombe Park 27 - Guildford 22
Combe cling on to win
Combe claimed their first win of the season but had to cling on in the second half as visitors Guildford continued to threaten. Combe’s lead at the interval 27-17 proved just enough but only through stout defence, good discipline, and steely resolve. With all the extra time added the half seemed never ending as Combe were pushed to the limit.
It did not start well. Combe booted the kick-off straight into touch, then Guildford with a free-kick and chip to the corner, won the line-out and drove hooker Ben Holden for a try converted by Gareth Davies. Not a good start. 0-7, five minutes gone. But Miki Zanirato slotted a long range penalty, and soon after Ant Hitchcock was clear and with support and quick re-cycling popped up again to score in the corner. Miki Zanirato added the conversion. That’s more like it. Except Guildford went over again from a scrum ten yards out and swift hands setting up winger Alex Jordan for a try in the corner. No conversion. Combe’s Miki Zanirato put over another penalty, to take back the lead. On the half hour Bradley Saffery came close after approach work from Dan Hamilton, James Lindfield, and James Dennett, and they featured again putting Ryan Hackett through the middle to score out on the left. Miki Zanirato was not missing. 20-12. With the end of normal time near Combe went over again. Dan Hamilton set up the counter, and with quick re-cycling and slick hands Bradley Saffery was steaming through for his try, converted by Miki Zanirato. 27-12. Into extra time, Combe have not cleared their lines, and Guildford put centre Freddie Hooper in at the corner. Half-time whistle. Combe could have done without conceding that score as a ten point advantage at the turn round and with the wind blowing up it might be too slender.
Guildford started the second period with serious intention. For Combe it would be non-stop defence as they would hardly be out of their own half. This despite Combe’s set piece beginning to get on top. Guildford had a penalty shot at goal which went wide, then their pressure told. A line-out close to the line, the inevitable drive and Ben Holden was over for his second. No conversion, 27-22, and twenty-five minutes of normal time left. In a rare foray into the visitors half Miki Zanirato looked as though he was close, and it took Bradley Saffery to win the foot race and save the day as Guildford hacked clear, taking play from one end to the other. Another chance for Combe went unrewarded. In the visitors twenty-two Combe spun the ball wide, Guildford knocked-on the attempted interception, but Miki Zanirato’s penalty shot went wide. Thereafter it was all Guildford. Fifteen minutes to go. James Lindfield saved the day winning a turnover at a scrum in the corner, and later streaked clear up the touch line away from danger. Into injury extra time, Guildford are throwing the kitchen sink. For Combe everyone is on defensive duty and no-one is found wanting. It’s now ten minutes of overtime, Guildford are in the left corner, they have a penalty, then another, a quick tap but spilled in front of the posts. Final whistle. Combe have clung on for a well-deserved win, a nail-biting thriller. Guildford have two bonus points, perhaps with more success at goal kicking they could have reversed the result, except they may not have reckoned with Combe’s second half ‘ils ne passerons pas’ performance.
Next Saturday Combe are back in Towcester for their re-arranged fixture. The following week, 21st October, Combe are away to league new-comers Tunbridge Wells, kick-off 3.00pm. Combe’s next home game is 28th October when Shelford visit.
Westcombe Park XV: B. Bateup; D. Hamilton, B. Saffery, A. Hitchcock, S. Pursell; J. Cameron, M. Zanirato; J. Stanford, J. Bonner, J. Forsyth, J. Dennett, T. Calohard, R. Hackett, J. Lindfield, C. O’Sullivan.
Bench: J Simmons, D. Fox, D. Bonner.
Match reporter - Bruce Mackenzie.