Watford RFC vs Ealing Rugby 1871 (7.12.19)
A surprisingly warm day in Hertfordshire given the fact we were nearing Christmas saw Ealing travel Watford in a 1st vs 6th game, hoping to continue their unbeaten season. The pitch looked wet and slippery, not lending favour to either the forwards or the backs.
It was a first half to forget for the away side, conceding the first of four tries after 6 minutes, high tackles meaning Watford gained yards. A series of carries led to them creating space, which allowed one of their two quick wingers to score in the corner – a tactic they employed all half. As Watford continued to apply pressure, kicking 3 points with a penalty, it took a team effort to start turning things around. A sustained length of time attacking led to a penalty inside Watford’s 22, and a quick tap penalty and quick passes stretched the defence, enabling Number 8 Kairo Rodrigo Payne to dot down in the corner. The conversion was missed, meaning the score at halftime was Watford 31 Ealing 5.
However, clichéd the phrase, this game really was a tale of two halves, and whatever was said by the management team at half time seemed to work. The pitch was getting steadily worse as the game went on, favouring a strong ball-carrying pack. Phase after phase of pick and go’s and running hard lines off the scrum half eventually led to prop Andrew Barton driving over to score. The conversion was unsuccessful, leaving the score at 31-10 to the home side.
Despite the size of Watford’s forwards, Ealing’s pack gained more and more of the upper hand at scrum time as their fitness began to tell. Seven minutes into the second half, a huge 8-man shove led to Rodrigo-Payne picking up from the base of the scrum and charging 40 metres down the right-hand side to score in the corner, and with a tough conversion missed, the score now stood at 31-15.
Belief that they could turn this around and win was quite clearly growing throughout the team, more exciting attacking rugby was being played and quick hands led to an explosive run by substitute Kadeem Collins, something he did all game after coming on, and quick hands and great support lines once again led to Rodrigo- Payne dotting down on the right hand side. The conversion of this wonderful team try was slotted by fly-half Enrico Rolfo, making the score 31-22, and the comeback was well and truly on.
The next two tries came from great work by everyone at lineouts, winning the ball and creating great platforms for attack. The first came from more pick and go’s, dominating the contact, and this time it was flanker Albert Stoute who went over the whitewash. The second try went lineout, pass to fly half Enrico Rolfo, then sidestep, sidestep, sidestep again and score, a really brilliant passage of play for the fly half who nailed both conversions to give Ealing a lead of 36-31.
It did not end there: another massive scrum set up an attack, and the backs’ ability to stretch a tired defence meant fullback Daniel Thomas had a one-on-one to score. He stepped off his right foot and dived for the line to score. The try went unconverted but an incredible performance in the second half meant that the final score was 41-31 to Ealing.
Great performances all round but a joint man of the match was awarded to Kadeem Collins and Nyall Wake.
Team sheet: 1. Andrew Barton, 2. Liam McDonagh (C), 3. Thomas Szyszko, 4.Matthew Donnelly, 5. Sam Lindsay, 6. Jonathan McKeogh, 7. Albert Stoute, 8. Kairo Rodrigo-Payne, 9. Alex Gillespie, 10. Enrico Rolfo, 11. Phil Done, 12. Afzaal Mir, 13. Jacob Pepper, 14. Arian Shehu, 15. Daniel Thomas.
Subs: Kadeem Collins, Nyall Wake, Kavan Fitzpatrick
Written by Charlie Watt