Woodford Under-15s climbed to third in Division Two with a convincing 41-17 win over Chelmsford on Sunday.

This was a must-win game for Woodford to stand any chance of staying in the promotion mix as the season reaches its climax. Despite a number of injury enforced absences, it was a strong Woodford squad that turned out in the sunshine at Chelmsford, and they were fired up as they lined up before kick-off.

Chelmsford made the first attacking move after Woodford made a hash of the kick off.  From the scrum Chelmsford attacked but Dan Farrelly was on hand with the first of many tackles he made in a solid centre partnership.

A Chelmsford error gave a scrum to Woodford and Alex Marks made a strong driving run, with some rapid muscular support from Victor Chujor. The ball was recycled and Haaris Sohoye received the pass, and laid the ball on to Farrelly who kicked.  As Chelmsford regained possession, Chujor waded in to break up the play. As Chelmsford tried to attack Farrelly and Jed West tackled the threat and regained possession.

With just 3 minutes on the clock, Woodford’s passing came together, with Farrelly, Will Curness and Sohoye combining, the latter spotting a gap and breaking from the 22 yard line for a try between the posts.  Despite the warm sun rays and the azure sky, the wind was whipping up making it a tricky day for the kickers, and the conversion missed its mark.  Woodford led 5-0.

Chelmsford were using their back line well and putting pressure on Woodford with sweeping attacks. Farrelly, Chujor and Arun Vaid all made important tackles before a high kick through was claimed by Jamie Ali and Woodford could launch a response.  Marks received a good offload and made a lovely swerving run before he was dispossessed. In the ruck the ball went loose. West anticipated well and was very unlucky to see the ball bounce just over his outstretched arms for what could have been a lovely try.

With action now centred in the Chelmsford 22, the home team looked to break from a line out, but the canny Sohoye nipped in to intercept a short pass, weaving past would-be tacklers, for another try between the posts.  With Marks’ conversion, Woodford led 12-0 after 8 minutes.

Chelmsford heads remained high and they made a strong attack and West had to be at his best for a fine rescuing tackle. More excellent Chelmsford passing saw them switch play from the left to the right wing before Michael Batt on the wing shut the move down.

As Chelmsford probed, play returned to the left before the towering Euan Fay tackled and created a Woodford passing response involving Tom Mead, Curness, Ali, Marks and Vaid, who was finally tackled into touch near the half way line.  As Chelmsford began a promising break, a thunderous tackle from Rhys Phillips stopped them in their tracks.  Curness stole the ball, before Fay, West, Phillips, Batt and Marks combined to make up ground.  Chujor and Fay combined to give clean ball to Sohoye who kicked to touch in the Chelmsford half. 

The Woodford pressure was building and Chelmsford, despite some good passing and tackling, were being kept pegged back in their own half.  Mead, Marks, Sohoye and Max Venditti exchanged passes, before Farrelly made a good run to the host’s 22. Woodford recycled the ball and Venditti drove forward with the move taken on by Chujor, and then Farrelly.  The next passage of play was all Woodford - West, Ali, Sohoye and Venditti were all involved, with the final pass reaching Marks for a well-crafted team try to the right of the posts.  Marks’ kick was good but the wind bent it just shy of the posts.  With 14 minutes gone Woodford led 17-0.

West caught cleanly from the restart and kicked a high ball which Marks followed up but could not secure and the scrum went to Chelmsford.  William Tindall came on for Vaid and was immediately in tackling action following a jinking run by Farrelly.  Batt and Phillips produced a decent burst nearly as far as the Chelmsford 22, and as Chelmsford tried to push back good tackles flew in from Curness, Phillips and Fay.  Fillip Goralczyk came on for the injured Chujor with 21 minutes played.

A Woodford line out was won by the outstretched palm of Fay, with the ball reaching Marks.  Mead took over and kicked, the ball bouncing over the Chelmsford full back, who turned, collected and made a strong run back at Woodford.  Tindall tackled, and as Chelmsford pressed, Mick Chamberlain tackled well inside the Woodford half. 

West led by example as he ripped the ball out of a ruck and kicked into touch 15 yards shy of the Chelmsford try line on the right.  No sooner had Taylor Wilkins come on for Goralczyk, when another line out won by Fay saw Mead’s quick pass set Marks free for a try between the posts.  Unconverted, Woodford led 22-0 after 22 minutes.

Sohoye caught and ran from the restart, Tindall was quick to support and secure the ball. Fay followed up with some powerful rucking with Chamberlain and West in rapid support.  Farrelly’s strong running was causing problems for Chelmsford and the busy Ali kept himself involved as Woodford were tightening the screws once more.  With 29 minutes gone, Vaid came back on, replacing Tindall.

The sheer physicality of West and Fay produced the power for a strong driving ruck into the Chelmsford half.  A slick move between Mead, Farrelly, Marks and Batt nearly paid off, and as Woodford kept up the pressure just short of the Chelmsford line the whistle went for half time with a strong Woodford lead.

Half-time score Chelmsford  0 - 22 Woodford

Chelmsford turned round to play the second half with both the wind and slight slope advantage. Had Woodford done enough in the first half and could they cope with what was to come.

Chelmsford collected the kick off and maximising the conditions put in a booming kick taking play from their 22 to the Woodford try line. Will Carey cleared the ball with a short defensive kick in to touch. Chelmsford pressurised the Woodford line and with a succession of penalty decisions going against Woodford, Chelmsford were suddenly back into it with a try in the left hand corner.  The conversion was nearly made but agonisingly hit the upright.  With 32 minutes gone Woodford led 22-5.

Woodford’s best move of the new half came from West bursting from a scrum and passing to Curness and on to Vaid.  With good support from Fay and Chamberlain, the ball went to the backs who began to make ground courtesy of Mead, Marks and Sohoye.

Woodford continued the attack with Farrelly and the versatile Ali breaking down the left wing.  With 37 minutes gone, play was just 5 yards short of Chelmsford’s try line. The forwards launched several attempts to score moving play in to the middle of the pitch. Fay and Chamberlain worked hard in another drive, holding the ball up before offloading to Mead and on to Marks for a try on the left.  Unconverted, Woodford led 27-5 after 38 minutes.  Ali and Vaid were replaced by Callum Levy and Matt Bastick.

Chelmsford pushed play to the Woodford 22 but good defensive play soon reversed the action and Marks and Batt threatened to break before a knock on.  With Chelmsford using the line well again, Bastick made two well-timed tackles on the wing, with Marks, Sohoye, Farrelly, Chamberlain and West adding to a high – and very effective – tackle count.

A kick by Batt travelled well despite the wind and he was unlucky not to catch it himself. Chelmsford recovered the ball and a repeat kick to the bottom left hand corner went in to touch. Woodford then put pressure on themselves by some risky passing near their own try line.  Just as the danger looked to have passed, Chelmsford found a gap and scored to the left of the posts, converting to reduce the deficit to 27-12 after 45 minutes.

From the restart another good move involving the Woodford backs took play in to the Chelmsford 22. Sohoye had to come off with an injury, replaced by Tom Fitzpatrick and Goralczyk back on for Phillips.  A good bursting run by Curness then saw Mead, West and Fitzpatrick link up well to keep the pressure on Chelmsford. As the ball came out Farrelly’s pass reached Goralczyk, who held off his opponent well and drove towards the posts.  Venditti, Levy and Curness combined in support and were held up just short of the line.  Goralczyk and Fay helped to force the ball further on, before West made a lunging dive over for a fine try to the right of the posts.  Marks’ conversion gave Woodford a 34-12 lead after 54 minutes.

From the restart, for the first time in the game, Woodford missed a series of tackles, and it took the fresher Bastick to step in and make an important tackle to halt a threatening Chelmsford move.  Sohoye came back on replacing Carey.

Woodford re-jigged their back line bringing Batt in to the outside centre position. Having been starved of ball most of the game he soon showed his credentials with a searing break from the Woodford 22. Batt was eventually tackled by the cover defence but a swift off load saw the move continue. Expectations rose as Woodford attacked up the left but the Chelmsford defence did enough to clear their line.

There was no respite as Mead, Marks and Sohoye combined once more deep in the Woodford half. Sohoye and Fitzpatrick exchanged passes, and then offloaded to Farrelly who made an imperious run down the middle from 30 yards out for a majestic try between the posts.  Marks’ conversion increased the Woodford lead to 41-12.  Vaid and Tindall came on for Venditti and Levy.

Bastick caught from the restart and West was swift to back him up. Woodford cleared the pressure but with the ball still in play they took their eye off the game and Chelmsford burst through some uncharacteristic weak tackling for an unconverted try.

This proved to be the last action of an entertaining game. An excellent team victory for Woodford who will need to win their final league game against Eton Manor at the end of April, and hope that other results go the right way, to pull off a second successive promotion.

Final score    Chelmsford  17 - 41 Woodford

Woodford Man of the Match (Backs)  Dan Farrelly
Woodford Man of the Match (Forwards) Jed West