Chingford 22 Brentwood 25 (London & South East Division: North 1) 24th March 2018
By Matthew Burr
Brentwood move clear at the top with a magnificent comeback win away at Chingford
A day of mixed emotions for Brentwood, they went into arguably the most important game in their history knowing that they would be without influential club captain Josh Woodcock for the rest of the season, a massive influence in Brentwood’s long unbeaten run until a serious injury effectively ended his season in January. The same fixture at the end of last season ended their hopes of a playoff and the stakes were even higher this time round, the winner would be clear at the top of the league with only three games left. The weather was clear and still, the pitch showing effects of the recent miserable weather and a big, noisy crowd arrived early to experience the playoff-like atmosphere. It was a game to match the occasion, the home side starting strongly and Brentwood fronting up in style to put in a fantastic second half performance to grab the spoils.
The game was evenly contested in the early minutes but Chingford started to dominate the set piece and breakdown, they put together multiple phases and were looking dangerous. Good defence kept the out until the 10th minute when winger Duffus touched down in the corner, they led 7-0 with a great conversion. Brentwood forced a penalty soon after which Burr put through the post to reduce the arrears. The momentum was still with Chingford and prop Banfield scored two quickfire tries, one either side of a Meakin penalty to stretch the lead to 22 -3 after 35 minutes. Brentwood were second best at that stage but forced an error in the midfield and Josh Stannard continued his fine form to scoop up the loose ball score from 60 metres, Burr added the extras and Brentwood were rejuvenated. Brentwood’s best player of the half Ed Hornby then beat 4 players to put the visitors close to the try line but Chingford killed the ball and the chance was gone. Paul Bradley stayed down in obvious pain from the pile of bodies, it was to be his last action of a barnstorming debut season, a broken leg cruelly ending it. A long delay while he was carried into the changing rooms to await an ambulance but Brentwood kept their cool to keep on the front foot and were awarded with a penalty which Burr converted to reduce the gap to 9 points.
Halftime: Chingford 22 – 13 Brentwood
Strong words were used to rally the team for the second half, they had not performed anywhere near their potential and a massive effort was needed, a playoff is a lottery and they wanted the automatic promotion spot that the league title would bring.
An immediate change was evident in the second half with more intensity, aggression and attitude from every player. Massive carries from Louis Payne, Luke Tilly and Tidje Visser put Brentwood on the front foot. Good interplay between James White and Adam Thomas put White clear to score within 5 minutes of the restart to reduce the deficit even further but Burr hit the post with the conversion, score now 22-18. Chingford to their credit came straight back at the visitors but came away with nothing from a 10 minute period of pressure on Brentwood’s line. Every player put their bodies on the line and it was a pivotal moment in the game but Adam Thomas, Billy Aldous & Chay Pollinger put in particularly strong hits, Brentwood reasserted their dominance and showed their skill with the try of the game. Tom Simpson started the move by taking a high ball and feeding Chay Pollinger who beat two men offload to Matt Whaley, quick hands from the second row to move the ball to Simpson again who immediate popped the ball into James White’s hands, he beat a player and Tom Simpson finished it all off by racing clear onto White’s perfectly timed pass. The second half was a reminder to all watching why Brentwood now sit atop the league, they are ferocious and organised in defence but capable of sublime skill in attack. The try and Burr conversion put the visitors 3 points up with 15 minutes to play, the atmosphere was electric and both sides had a chance to take the win. Chingford again pressed for the score and, sure enough, Brentwood held them out again. A fantastic hit from Charlie Wilkinson stopped a Chingford move in it’s tracks. A turnover 5 metres from Brentwood’s line was important but a lineout steal from George Bassenger from the same distance out on 77 minutes saw the home side’s shoulders slump. Brentwood had all the energy and saw out the match with more strong carries up the middle. The referee signalled time was up and Burr thumped the ball into the nearby reservoir to spark wild celebrations from the away side’s players, staff and supporters.
A fantastic match from both sides and the 4 point difference over the two matches showed how close these two teams are. Brentwood came out on top in both contests and now have a 3 point gap at the top with 3 games remaining, it’s in Brentwood’s hands for the first time all season and three wins will see them through.
The Davlav Man of the Match went to James White, a compete scrum half performance. Instrumental in everything good that Brentwood put together and strong in defence. Scored the important try at the start of the second half. A week off for the team over Easter and then Ruislip visit on April 7th April, 3pm kickoff.
Brentwood Team: Visser, Payne, Bevans-Royson, Whaley, Killington, Amato, Bassenger, Bradley, White, Burr, Hornby, Thomas, Stannard, Pollinger, Simpson Subs: Tilly, Aldous, Wilkinson