Woodford U15 A team travelled up the M11 to Harlow in great form and positive spirit being unbeaten since November. Having overrun Harlow by a resounding margin of 54-7 in a league game earlier in the season Woodford wanted to confirm it had not been a flash in the pan.
The squad was slightly changed and travelled with one replacement to allow a Woodford U15 B team to run out at home.
The game started with both sides attack probing for weaknesses in the others defence. Harlow had an impressive opening spell putting Woodford under pressure with quick recycling of the ball. Woodford’s defence held out and gradually they worked their way in to the game.
Five minutes in and Victor Chujor stole a Harlow lineout ball and with Rhys Phillips in support drove forward. Woodford moved forward with Robert Yiannakou clearing the ball to Euan Fay who nearly released Jed West on a clear run but play was called back.
Woodford were asserting themselves physically with West and Chujor rucking well, and Michael Chamberlain and Yiannakou backing them up in driving play forward. Harlow’s attempts to break out of their own half were thwarted by tough tackling from Anthony Hamilton and Will Carey.
Harlow’s big number 5 tried to get past Max Venditti but like a mighty oak, he was unyielding. Phillips was not missing a tackle, and with Harlow 15 yards out, it took a steamroller of a tackle from Fay to halt them in their tracks.
Good work from William Tindall, Dan Farrelly and then West drove Harlow back, and a clean catch and driving run by Will Carey returned the action to Harlow’s half. Yiannakou was on hand to continue the positive progress up field. One of the best passing moves of the game saw Tom Mead, Michael Batt and then Farrelly combine from right to left, with the latter making a long pass to Hamilton who did well to offload to Alex Marks on the wing who was unlucky to be tackled into touch.
Harlow won a defensive scrum but as they tried to break Marks tackled the move to a standstill. The slow ball gave a clearing pass that was intercepted by Hamilton who launched forward, passing to Yiannakou, who found Batt in support. Batt’s weaving and probing run, from left to right and back again, proved fruitful. Hamilton came back into the move, with West and Chujor creating the physical support at the break down Marks was able to run the ball over the line in the left corner for an opening try, unconverted, 0 – 5 to Woodford on sixteen minutes.
Arun Vaid came on for Tindall in the front row. Venditti claimed the ball from the restart, and defensive tackles flew in from Tom Fitzpatrick, Chamberlain and Farrelly. Harlow drove forward and West, Venditti and Hamilton made important tackles as a try looked inevitable. The Woodford pack defended heroically and prevented the score. Relief was temporary and Harlow attacked again, this time on the right, with Carey blocking the attempted breakthrough.
A powerful set of drives had Harlow over the try line but Woodford held the ball up preventing the score. More sound defence from Woodford saw them inch their way back up field.
Still in their own 22 Woodford secured scrum ball and West picked up and kicked way up field. The defence was quickly chased down and in the fumble West kicked on and outpaced his opponents to follow the ball over the line and get it down for a clever individual try, unconverted, Woodford led 0 – 10 on twenty three minutes.
Tindall returned to the game, replacing Will Carey at full back. He was quickly in to action collecting a Harlow kick. Tindall made good ground running into the Harlow half. Chujor was quick to support and secure the ball. A quick kick and chase from West was followed by another from Marks who collected his own neat chip ahead. The ball was fed to Mead who fed Batt to outstrip Harlow on the left for a try, unconverted, 0-15.
Carey came back on at full back with Tindall moving to hooker in place of Vaid. Woodford continued to dominate and following some good pressure made their way towards the try line. As the ball was recycled through the ruck Chamberlain picked it up and made a bursting drive over the line for a well-worked team try.
Half-time score Harlow 0 - 20 Woodford
The second half started brightly for both teams but Woodford were quick to stamp their authority on the game. Chujor caught the kick offloading to Tindall, on to Marks, and then Farrelly. With the whole team playing uniformly well Woodford were getting overly keen and tended to stray offside. This kept pegging them back from try scoring opportunities.
West was having a strong game with a fine display in attack, defence, and with his kicking ploys. Vaid was involved from the off, getting in the thick of the action with some good tackling and rucking.
Harlow made one of their best moves with some fluid passing and a strong run by their number 17 before a decisive tackle by Marks halted progress. Following some good pressure by Hamilton, Chamberlain and Batt on Woodford’s right, the pack powered inexorably towards the line, before Yiannakou drove up the side and dived over the line for a well-worked try that was converted by West, 0 – 27 on 36 minutes.
The Woodford team were pushing Harlow hard when the pack disrupted a Harlow ball, scrum half Mead got the ball away to Marks. Marks made a strong run down the right wing, holding off attempts to take him into touch, before getting the ball down between the posts. West converted giving Woodford a 0 – 34 lead on thirty nine minutes.
Vaid came back on for Tindall to keep the hard working pack as fresh as possible.
An excellent exchange of passes followed involving Mead, Chujor, West, Fay and Batt. As Chamberlain looked to break for the score play was again brought back for an earlier Woodford infringement. Farrelly’s next drive was stopped just short of the line.
From a Batt kick, Fitzpatrick followed up and kicked on, ran and nearly got the ball over the line for Mead to touch down but play was called back for a Harlow penalty.
Another Woodford attack was unlucky not to result in a score. Max Venditti secured the ball from a Harlow kick and made an unstoppable run through their half as far as the try line on the right but play was called back for an earlier infringement.
Woodford were soon on the attack again, Venditti and Chujor both making short powerful driving bursts to turn Woodford defensive play into attack. Carey made a good low run through the middle before being tackled, but Woodford maintained the forward momentum and Farrelly did well to find Batt free on the right for a well-crafted team try. Yiannakou converted for 0 – 41 lead with just under ten minutes remaining.
Woodford thinking the job was done switched off and a quick thinking Harlow penalty saw them get on the score board with a try, 5 – 41.
From the re-start Woodford shook themselves awake, Fay making a strong incursive drive forward, before Venditti with the support of the Woodford pack completed the offensive move with a try in the right hand corner of the pitch to take the score to 5 - 46.
Woodford were now looking tired but kept going. From the restart Fitzpatrick and Vaid added to their tackle counts. Woodford were working so well together and where any defensive gap appeared, a body was quick to fill it, and Harlow were given no time on the ball or space to play in.
Harlow found a gap but Yiannakou made an explosive tackle into touch. When they tried again it was Phillips yet again on hand to thwart them. With Harlow starting to tighten the screws Woodford tackles flew in from Batt, Marks, Carey, Fay and then a Farrelly one of which took down the big Harlow number 8 yet again.
Finally a gap was exploited in the Woodford line but Phillips produced a stunning cover tackle and did not let them pass. Mark's was on hand to rob the ball and Hamilton kicked up field. Both he and Marks outpaced the lone Harlow back but were unlucky to knock on.
Final score Harlow 5 - 46 Woodford
Woodford Man of the Match:Rhys Phillips
Squad: Chamberlain, Vaid, Tindall, Yiannakou, Fay, Venditti, Chujor, Phillips, West, Mead, Marks, Hamilton, Farrelly, Batt, Fitzpatrick, Carey.