Below-strength Counts rise to the occasion
By Rob Murphy
A below-strength Old Walcountians confounded all expectations with a convincing victory over Old Mid-Whitgiftians at Clock House last Saturday.
The Counts were missing several key players, with forwards Will Thornton, Anthony Abou-Zeid, Rob Fleming, Tom Housden and Jonny Evans and backs Dany Abou-Zeid, Jacob Oldfield and Toby Bentley all absent for this twice-rearranged match. However, all the players called up – centre Tom McMullen, prop Dan Bell, hooker Calum George, lock Pete Thomas and the back row of Ed Bellringer, Will Dunne and Jack Wrightson – had previous 1st XV experience.
The first 20 minutes of the game suggested that Walcountians were going to be in trouble as the visitors launched repeated attacks at their tryline. 15 minutes into the match, it was Midwives who struck first when their right-winger crashed over ofr a try from a ruck near the Counts line.
However, Walcountians then came to life as their makeshift pack got in the faces of their opponents and started to drive play forward and turn over possession. In the 23rd minute, replacement prop Paul Harris ripped the ball out of a maul, from which the ball was passed out to the threequarters who set full-back Ross Norton up for a try. Norton’s conversion put Walcountians into a lead which they did not relinquish.
Scrum-half Seb Chmielinski, who had been Walountians’ main playmaker, was next to score when, in the 31st minute, he broke from a ruck and raced away from the stunned Midwives defenders to touch down for a try.
Midwives missed an opportunity to narrow the lead when a penalty in the 35th minute was off target and Walcountians extended their lead to 16 points at half-time when acting skipper Harry Wrightson made an audacious break through the middle of the Midwives defence to touch down for their third try.
In theory, Mid-Whitgiftians should have benefitted from the advantage of the slope and a near gale-force wind in the second half, but they were not allowed to settle by a determined and increasingly confident Walcountians. The forwards, with props Paul Harris and Remy Claustres, lock Joe Henderson and No8 Jack Wrightson outstanding, aggressively attacked every ruck and maul and drove play back towards the Midwives half, while the backs, benefiting from the relentless probing of Seb Chmielinski and the measured distribution of their two main midfield backs, Harry Wrightson and Tom McMullen, repeatedly stretched Midwives to the limit.
It took the Counts 18 minutes into the second half to add to their lead but, thereafter, it was one-way traffic as they put Midwives to the sword. The first score came in the 18th minute when Seb Chmielinski wriggled his way out of two attempted tackles to cross the line. Six minutes later, Walcountians were over the Midwives tryline again when Pete Thomas broke from a ruck in the Midwives 22 and offloaded to Calum George who barrelled his way over for his first try for the Counts.
Ross Norton scored his second try of the day after 28 minutes with a spectacular burst down the left flank which left Midwives defenders gasping for air, and the same player brought up to 40-point mark with a penalty in the 35th minute.
The final coup de grace was delivered by acting skipper Harry Wrightson in the final minute when he opened up the Midwives defence with a searing break, found replacement centre Heath Bateman in support and took the return pass from Bateman to touch down for his second, and Walcountians’ seventh try of the day.
This win has taken Walcountians up to third place in Surrey League 1. The Counts are now just seven points behind second-placed Weybridge Vandals with three matches to go and have an outside chance of making the promotion play-offs, although they face a tough run-in with two of their remaining matches against the top two teams. Next Saturday, Walcountians take on bottom side Old Wimbledonians in a match which counts for both the League and the Surrey Shield, a trophy they last won ten years ago. Kick-off at Clock House, Carshalton Road, Woodmansterne, is at 3pm.
Old Walcountians:- Norton, Fletcher-Rogers, Hardman, McMullen, Vadivelu, Wrightson (H), Chmielinski, Bell, George, Claustres, Thomas, Henderson, Bellringer, Dunne, Wrightson (J).
Subs:- Bateman, Cole, Harris.