Wobbly Counts see off determined Cardinals' challenge to make Surrey Shield final
By Rob Murphy
Old Walcountians recovered from early nerves to sweep into the final of the Surrey Shield after seeing off a determined challenge from one-time local giants Streatham-Croydon.
On paper, it should have been an easy win for Walcountians against opponents who finished bottom of Surrey League 2. But Walcountians showed alarming complacency for much of the first half and a determined Cardinals XV with nothing to play for but pride proved that their victory over RFU Vase semi-finalists Battersea Ironsides was no fluke.
The visitors drew first blood after 15 minutes when they pounced on loose ball which Walcountians failed to gather and put left-winger Harry Webber in for a try in the corner.
Walcountians woke up to the challenge and narrowed the lead in the 18th minute when winger Tom Harrison booted over a penalty and went in front three minutes later when No 8 and skipper for the day, Joe Henderson, drove over for a try from a ruck on the Cardinals’ line.
Walcountians extended their lead to ten points in the 31st minute when Henderson scored his second try of the day with a blind-side break from a scrum in the Streatham-Croydon 22. But the visitors were far from out of the game and levelled the score when right-winger Vinny Augustine ran in tries in the 36th and 40th minute. It took a second penalty from Tom Harrison ten minutes into stoppage time to restore the Old Boys’ lead.
Walcountians’ lack of cohesion and urgency continued into the second half and they went behind for the second time after nine minutes when inside-centre Andy Daniels found a gap in the Walcountians defence and held off two tackles to touch down for a try. However, this proved the wake-up call Walcountians neeed and they added 20 points in a 12-minute spell to kill off the Cardinals’ challenge. Firstly, Tom Harrison banged over his third penalty of the day in the 12th minute. Six minutes later, Harrison was short with a penalty attempt but, from the attempted clearance, Walcountians recovered possession and switched play to the left for centre Fred South to put winger James Tutton in for a try.
Four minutes later, centre Eddy Ryan scored a try after making a spectacular break from near the halfway line and outpacing the Streatham-Croydon defence. This was followed in the 25th minute by an opportunistic try by fly-half Tom Diamond who recovered loose possession and ran in another try from halfway out. With Tom Harrison converting both tries, Streatham-Croydon were 20 points adrift and their challenge was finished.
To the visitors’ credit, they refused to give up and Vinny Augustine ran in his third try of the day in the 30th minute.
The final of the Surrey Shield takes place at Esher Rugby Club on Monday, 5 May, kicking off at 1:15pm.