PRE-MATCH TRIBUTES TO ANDY HILLBURNJanuary 9, 2023
MIDWIVES SPRING LUNCH – BOOK NOWJanuary 31, 2023
Match Report by Gerry Murphy
Counties League : Surrey /Sussex 1
Warlingham 16 Trinity 24
Credit to Warlingham for an excellent lunch and hospitality and for going ahead with this postponed fixture despite the appalling weather conditions. The mud produced on the pitch was such that it would be difficult to find an adjective capable of describing it fully. Yet both teams battled through to produce an absorbing match of a kind not seen for many years, but which would have been a common enough experience for older players from the time before well drained pitches came on the scene.
Trinity had the advantage of the slope (this was not the first team pitch) and the wind in the first half and all the early play was in the Warlingham half. A good kick from full back Jack Greenwood found touch deep in the 22 and, when the hosts were then penalised for offside, Harry Wilson at fly half took a quick tap and crossed unopposed after 3 minutes.
Warlingham regrouped and produced a fine passage of play with excellent handling and recycling of possession. A high tackle meant a penalty and fly half Louis Rossi-Jones kicked the goal. Back came Trinity and flanker Ben Vaillant was showing some real fire. Warlingham were repeatedly penalised but Trinity’s tactic of kicking to touch was not producing results as their malfunctioning line out was not exploiting good field positions. To be fair, this was partly due to Warlingham’s interference with the jumper and Trinity reaped the rewards through two fine penalty goals from Greenwood.
Warlingham still showed spirit and, when Trinity failed to clear properly, they made good ground and won another shot at goal after 25 minutes which Rossi-Jones converted off an upright to leave the score at 11-6 to Trinity after 25 minutes. Trinity now dominated and some fine drives by prop Nathan Bacon and a turnover by Farooq Agbalaya gave them promising field positions. But they needed tries to turn their superiority into enough points to give them confidence to face the conditions in the second half. Warlingham continued to concede penalties but line out ball was still not good enough to produce the goods for the visitors. Trinity were grateful to Greenwood for two further goals and they were relieved to reach half time without conceding further points to their hosts who had a period of sustained pressure in the last 5 minutes of the half. Solid tackling from Vaillant and from centres Andy Dean and Temi Okenla denied Warlingham and the half time score was 17-6 to Trinity.
It was clear that Trinity would face a huge task in the second half. The wind was freshening and Warlingham piled on the pressure. They camped in the Trinity 22 and Trinity had to defend for their lives. Now it was the visitors who were conceding penalties, but skipper Ali Hall rallied his men to fight like lions to delay the inevitable until the 54th minute when winger Adam Downey-Keane scored on the left for Warlingham. From the kick-off Trinity had a good passage of play with Jack Whitewood, Bacon and Vaillant playing an effective pick and drive game and substitute Adam Stammers relishing the challenge in the conditions. With the teams now indistinguishable with every player wearing a suit of mud, Warlingham gallantly helped the referee by changing their shirts, many by turning them inside out!
Warlingham again laid siege to the Trinity line, but dour defence kept them out. On 70 minutes they managed to push a threatening home drive into touch but in the resulting line out the ball dropped into the arms of home prop Lewis Brown who gratefully slid over for his try. The gap was now only one point and, because of time lost to injury, Warlingham had plenty of time to get the winning score. They did look like the winners at this stage, but Hall drove his men again and Trinity had their best period of the game when it really mattered. The line out began to work much better; the scrum, which had been under pressure after the loss of prop Jacques Bryant to injury early in the second half, was now much steadier and continued Trojan efforts to work the ball upfield and retain possession meant that Warlingham’s expected dominance did not continue.
In fact, it was Mids who scored next when Wilson again took a tap and go and Trinity drove well for Bacon to get the try. Greenwood’s conversion attempt now took on added significance as there was time for Warlingham to steal the game if they could score a 7 pointer. He concentrated hard and drove a fine conversion into the breeze between the posts to cap a very accomplished display. This meant that Warlingham had to score twice to win but they were deflated, and Trinity’s tails were up.
Warlingham will be really disappointed not to have registered their first win of the season but proud to have put in a very encouraging performance.