Raynes Park 19
RUGBY: WOKING narrowly lost out to Raynes Park in Surrey Division 4 on Saturday.
Although there is no such thing as a formality in a tough league, having comfortably won the reverse fixture 29-5 at Byfleet Rec back in November and with Park losing three of their last four matches – suffering the indignation of being ‘nilled’ in two of those ties – the omens appeared to be there for a Woking win.
Even the miserable conditions seemed set-up to suit Woking’s forwards’ game, and the visiting pack duly dominated proceedings throughout the opening 10 minutes of play.
Woking eventually took the lead, with the trusty boot of Justin Dougherty securing three points from a penalty. As is becoming a habit for Woking, however, they quickly conceded ground as Raynes Park ran over five easy points with the first try of the day.
The hosts’ lead was extended shortly afterwards as two penalties were confidently converted – the second coming after a reversed decision by the referee, despite the protestations of Woking skipper Mike Aitchison.
Spurred on by that frustration to Woking began to wake up and they subsequently spent the remainder of the first half camped in the opposing 22: the sustained spell of pressure eventually leading to a penalty try from a powerful Woking scrum, converted by Aitchison, to make the half time score 11-10.
A stop-start second period saw a huge number of handling errors due to the soggy conditions, with Park relieving the persistent pressure by punting huge kicks down field time rather than gambling by carrying the slippy ball in hand.
And that kick and run tactic was to pay dividends as the Woking back three struggled to gather the high ball in the wet.
Woking tried to keep up their earlier edge in the match with a powerful scrum game, but failed to convert the pressure to points when opportunities presented themselves.
A breakaway try for Raynes Park, and another painful penalty decision took the game to 19-10 against the run of play.
With 10 minutes to spare the referee finally concurred with common opinion among the Woking ranks and sent a Raynes Park player from the pitch for persistent infringement around the contact area.
Woking immediately capitalised through Phil Robertson, who powered over the try line from an excellent catch and drive orchestrated by James Bannister to reduce the gap to two.
The closing five minutes saw a second Park player take his leave for a yellow card, and at 19-17 Woking looked certain to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
But another bizarre decision from the referee – who opted not to discuss the fine details of his performance with the Woking contingent after the game – instead presented the ball back to the home side who cleared to touch as the final whistle sounded.
Assistant coach David Nolan summed up the feeling among a deflated Woking team: “We were beaten by an excellent kicking game today. Raynes relieved the pressure time and time again to great effect.
“We can take heart from a very gutsy performance, but lessons need to be learned and we need to focus on being more clinical in poor conditions.”
Despite a fifth loss of the campaign Woking remain relatively secure in fourth place in the league standings. Next up on Saturday is the visit of eighth-placed Haslemere.
WOKING Rugby Club are currently looking for new players to sign up. Contact Richard on 07769 782070 for details or visit them at www.wokingrugby.com.