RUGBY: CHOBHAM kept their promotion dreams alive while dealing a fatal blow to the aspirations of rivals Guildford.
After a scheduled week off had allowed Surrey locals’ tongues to start wagging, old foes Chobham and Guildford locked horns for a mouthwatering clash at Broadwater Park. Chobham came into the game on a seven-match winning streak, while Guildford fans had witnessed a slight wobble of late after back-to-back losses.
It was clear that to keep in touch with league leaders Wimbledon, a victory was crucial on both sides. Having edged out Guildford in a tight 12-5 tussle at Fowlers Wells in October, the mood in the Chobham camp was positive, while the visitors were buoyed further still by the travelling ‘Chobham Army’, who descended on Broadwater in their masses, complete with drums, trumpets and megaphones.
Despite the January cold snap, the playing surface was in reasonable shape, although a blustery north wind blowing down the pitch brought a sharp chill to the afternoon’s proceedings.
With the opening minutes being played in midfield as both sides tested each other’s defences, it was the visitors who struck the first blow on six minutes.
A pass out wide found winger Aaran Mawson, and with space in front of him his chip rebounded off an attempted Guildford charge down and he reclaimed possession to sprint in from 30 metres; Alex Seers added the conversion.
Two minutes later Mawson repeated his try scoring feat. Again, finding acres of turf to himself, his nudge-through bounced perfectly for him to score underneath the posts; Seers again adding two more from the tee.
Incredibly, with under 10 minutes played, the third try of the afternoon was scored. A well-executed catch and drive allowed James Kirk to burrow his way over as the hosts cut the deficit in half.
With the brisk breeze now in their sails, Guildford pushed on for a leveller. However, with Chobham centres Tony Paul and Ben Sims muscularly marshalling the defence and Seers and James Dunne intelligently pushing the hosts back with booming touch-finders, Chobham extended their lead as the assured Seers dispatched two penalties before the half-time whistle.
Ryan Gregory’s men flew out of the blocks once again after the restart; Seers bisecting the uprights with a penalty in no time at all. But Guildford simply refused to lie down, and when Chobham couldn’t clear their lines the ball was turned over, allowing Barrow to touch down.
There was then a short injury delay while prop Lee Evans was stretchered off with a worrying neck injury – which was happily given the all-clear after a precautionary hospital visit.
Once play had resumed, Guildford upped the urgency, reducing the deficit to one point before the hour mark through a Jarrod Adam penalty and a try from winger Stu Phillips.
Chobham have proved their ability to remain calm in tight games, and this game was a good example of that. Having absorbed a sustained period of pressure, Ollie Smith broke over the gain line to draw a foul, giving Seers another try at the sticks, which he duly stuck over.
Chobham deservedly held out for a hard-fought win, with the quality of their all round play and tactical nous always looking more threatening than the hosts’ set-piece strength. The win consolidates Chobham’s grip on second spot, opening up a small but significant four-point gap on the chasing pack, headed by Sidcup.
A much-improved Cobham visit Fowlers Wells on Saturday for what is sure to be another intriguing tie as the season moves into its defining phase.