U15s Friendly Game, Sunday 2 March 2014

Stanford 29 - 34 Woodford

Division 1 team Stanford welcomed Woodford back almost a year to the day since a cracking encounter between the two clubs. Woodford had a few late withdrawals and with Zac Cannon injured during the pre-match warm up there were no replacements on hand.

A year ago Woodford won 55-53 with the last kick of the game, having trailed 48-10 at one stage in the game. Today’s game did not disappoint. 

With Stanford kicking into the strong swirling wind, a clean catch by Max Venditti gave Haaris Sohoye and Michael Batt the opportunity to break, but play was switched back immediately calling William Curness and Will Carey into defensive tackles.  With Stanford using the wind to kick deep into the Woodford half, Batt was on hand to collect and kick back upfield. Woodford were down to 14 as William Tindall left the pitch for 5 minutes with a nosebleed.

At the restart Ben Charles did well to collect a loose ball, and to release a quick, short pass to Sohoye. Woodford lost the ball and Stanford regained the initiative and Carey and Curness had to tackle again as play shifted from the left in to the middle of the pitch.  Sohoye, captaining the team, led by example as he grittily blocked a Stanford drive and then held up the attack until support arrived. From the next phase Batt and Sohoye again tackled well and as Stanford threatened to finally break through it took a well-timed low tackle from Charles to thwart them.

The building pressure took Stanford as far as the Woodford 22. Taylor Wilkins was in defiant mood and tackled with panache, with Toby Harrison quick in support, followed up with the bullish aggression of Mick Chamberlain. The home side tied up the Woodford defence and moved play to the right wing and with a man over opened the scoring.  With a good conversion in the wind, Stanford led 7-0 after 8 minutes.

From the restart, the wind affected both teams handling, and from a penalty to Woodford, Curness’ quick tap and go started a good move involving Venditti, and then Chamberlain who made a powerful drive towards the line.  Another Woodford penalty five yards from the Stanford line saw the sharp Tom Mead tap and pass to Curness who powered over for an equalising try.  With the conversion not finding the mark, Woodford trailed 5-7 after 12 minutes.

Stanford threatened again immediately and with Woodford tackles not hitting the target it took a combined tackle by Batt and Carey to halt the move at the last gasp.  Play shifted back and forth as both sides tried to carve out an opening.  Sohoye made a good weaving run into the Stanford half, before Filip Goraczk took on the attacking move.  The clever Mead saw an opening and nipped in to collect the ball, making a darting run on the right and getting over the line for a fine try.  Unconverted, Woodford led 10-7 after 15 minutes.

Goraczk, having an excellent game, made a good catch from the restart.  A neat passing move involving Curness, Sohoye, Tom Fitzpatrick and Batt was brought back for an earlier infringement, but Venditti, Tindall and Goraczk soon made up the ground with a strong driving maul. A neat offload by Curness then set Chamberlain free on the left for another Woodford try.  With the conversion falling short, Woodford now led 15-7 after 20 minutes.

With the applause barely complete, Woodford attacked again from the restart and the lively Sohoye made an excellent driving run evading would-be tacklers and placing the ball between the posts.  Sohoye converted his own try and Woodford extended their lead to 22-7 after 21 minutes.

Woodford did not have time to celebrate as, from the kick off, Stanford smashed through the Woodford ranks, brushing off tackles the hosts reduced the deficit immediately.  With the conversion blowing off target, Woodford led 22-12 after 22 minutes.

Following the restart, Carey made a decent run towards the Stanford 22, before play shifted in the other direction again.  Curness held up the driving move, with Venditti and Mead in support.  Sohoye’s clearance kick was collected by Stanford and it took a fierce tackle into touch by the alert Tari Branson to halt the move. In the next move Wilkins and Tindall worked together to tackle into touch, followed soon after by tackles by Goraczk and Curness, and a good blocking tackle by Charles.

The consistently effective Curness again held up a strong driving move, before Wilkins jinked in to rip the ball and offload to Mead, who fed the ball to Batt who was able to run between the posts for a good team try.  Batt converted his own try extending Woodford’s lead to 29-12 after 27 minutes.

Curness’ catch from the restart, began a passing move involving Goraczk, Harrison and Mead.  The lively Tindall made a good pass to Sohoye, who was immediately flattened by a devastating tackle.  Stanford looked to burst out down their left wing but Fred Skipper made a perfectly timed tackle to stop the attack.

Another good Sohoye attack was followed by a bursting drive by Carey in to the Stanford 22.  An opportunistic Stanford kick nearly sliced the Woodford defence open but Skipper found himself blocking the kick.  Mead secured the ball, and Venditti made a nimble jinking run, before Sohoye and then the busy Fitzpatrick took over as the half came to an end.

Half-time Stanford 12 - 29 Woodford

Woodford deserved the lead and with the strong wind now in their faces it was clear that they would need it as the second half started. 

Batt’s kick was caught and a high kick back saw Carey secure the ball, with quick support led by Wilkins. Stanford attacked but Harrison made another good tackle, before a tasty interception and pumping run by Sohoye gained Woodford ground.  Curness’s power in the ruck maintained the forward momentum, before an explosive, jarring collision of a tackle saw Goraczk walk away, whilst his opposite number needed treatment before getting back to his feet.
After 33 minutes a scrum near the half way line saw Mead’s quick pass find Sohoye.  Passing to Batt, Branson was well placed to complete the move but a lack of support at the break down let Stanford regain possession.  Tindall ripped the ball well, but Stanford took the ball back and burst through the Woodford line.  Carey made an excellent defensive tackle but the Stanford man managed to offload and with men over, the try was secured.  A good conversion reduced the Woodford lead to 29-19 after 35 minutes.

Fitzpatrick made a good run soon after the restart before being stopped. Recycled ball by Chamberlain found Harrison, before Curness and Tindall combined to move play forward. Stanford tried to attack again but the calm Wilkins tackled the move dead.

Stanford using the wind at their backs looked threatening with every move as their passing began to look more fluid.  Goraczk and Curness made some very strong tackles, and Mead’s pass gave Sohoye the chance to kick clear and into touch.  Venditti rose highest in the line out, and Mead, Sohoye and Batt were unlucky to see their subsequent move break down.

A long kick upfiled by Stanford as picked up by Carey who managed a run as far as the half way line before being tackled.  Both Curness and Fitzpatrick tried to break, but as the Stanford ranks made worrying progress Goraczk had to tackle again. Branson collected the ball and his unpredictable run width wise across the pitch from 10 yards out did the job to allow Woodford to reorganise.  A Stanford scrum on the Woodford 22 gave them the chance they were after though and a burst through on the left produced another try.  Unconverted, Stanford trailed Woodford 29-24 after 41 minutes.

Carey came of the pitch with an injury so Woodford were forced to play another 5 minutes with 14 players.  Stanford were really up for it now and looked menacing at every move.  Woodford were tiring but kept tackling with Tindall and Goraczk showing the way. With Woodford now wholly on the defensive it seemed just a matter of time before Stanford would find a way through. Using their line well Stanford produced one of the best passing sequences of the game, with some neat short interchanges, for an equalising try on the left.  With the wind preventing yet another conversion, the score stood at 29-29 after 51 minutes.

Curness was in the thick of the action from the restart. A Stanford kick was secured by Carey but support was slow in coming and he was held up.  Curness drove forward again, but as play shifted back it took a good tackle by Mead on the Woodford 22 to snuff out the danger.

Sohoye, Batt, Venditti and Harrison were all involved in the next positive Woodford move, and Fitzpatrick and Carey then made up more ground before the referee blew for a Woodford scrum 15 yards from the Stanford line.  To the delight of the team and supporters, Curness was on hand from the scrum to drive over on the left for a fine try.  The attempt to convert fell agonisingly short, but Woodford, against the run of play, regained the lead, 34-29 after 55 minutes.

A long Stanford restart kick was secured by Mead near the Woodford try line.  Branson was quick to support, and there was relief as Woodford were awarded a penalty on their own line. The pressure relieved Mead, Sohoye and Batt combined as Woodford tried to keep play in the Stanford half.  It was heart-in-the-mouth stuff as we entered the last two minutes of the game.  Curness tackled, Sohoye kicked, Wilkins, Venditti, Harrison, Chamberlain and Curness provided the physical blockade.  Every Woodford player was squeezing out their remaining energy and commitment to keep Stanford away from the try line.

Sohoye kicked into touch as the game moved into time added on. Play came back immediately and it took a wonderful tackle from Curness and then a one-man, holding back the tide drive from the exuberant Tindall, before Goraczk capped off a fine game with a perfect 10 tackle.

As the seconds ticked down, the tackle count was added to by Venditti, Tindall and Curness.  Goraczk and Venditti took the game back to Stanford, giving Batt and Sohoye a last opportunity to make attacking inroads, and with Sohoye completing another impressive performance with another fearless tackle, it was relief and pride all round as the referee blew up.

This was a game of two halves with the tempestuous wind assisting each side in turns, and making for a difficult but open game.  Woodford maintained their recent excellent run of results, winning what was a very physical game of rugby.  With some of the Woodford players having also played in the win against Davenant the day before, the stamina shown by the team as a whole was excellent and they worked for each other to ensure they came away as victors.

Full-time Stanford 29 - 34 Woodford

Woodford Man of the Match  Mick Chamberlain