Reigate Grammar School overcame difficult conditions and a strong, forward-led comeback from Glyn School, Epsom to record a 19-10 victory in their last fixture of the season
The Hartswood pitches are usually amongst the best on the circuit, but, as with many grounds across the country, they have suffered from the almost incessant rain in recent weeks, their proximity to the upper reaches of the Mole a possible additional factor. With all the other games in this block fixture called off, it was good to see this local Derby going ahead.
These two schools currently play on similar circuits, with several common opponents. A comparison of results in those fixtures showed a mixed picture, though with Reigate arguably looking the favourites on paper, based especially on the margins of their respective losses to Eastbourne College in successive rounds of the U18 National Vase, Reigate going down 22-11, while Glyn suffered a 43-0 shutout. Reigate were weakened for this game by the loss of two key players in the Eastbourne game, No 8 Edward Russ and the scorer of all their points that day, fly half Will Timmons.
Reigate kicked off in sunshine, though with a strong wind blowing across the pitch. After an exchange of kicks, Glyn drove through their forward pack but a forward pass gave the home side a scrum on half way. Although a big shove by Glyn put Reigate under pressure – a pattern that was to be repeated throughout the game – their scrum half was penalised and Reigate were able to set up an attacking line-out on the left. Possession was won and the Reigate forwards drove into the 22, forcing successive penalties from the defence. The referee played advantage on both occasions and when the ball was moved to the right, the Reigate back row combined well before Matthew North cut through to score on the right, Owen Knowles converting.
After Reigate had knocked on at the restart, the Glyn forward pack continued to dominate at the set scrums, taking play into the Reigate 22 on the left before releasing flanker Jack Benton, who broke tackles and carried close to the line before being forced into touch just short of the whitewash. Although Reigate secured possession from the line-out, they were unable to get the clearance kick away from the in-goal area and were forced to concede a 5m scrum. No 8 Kieran Finney picked up from the base but was stopped short of the line and Glyn were caught offside at the ensuing ruck, allowing Reigate to clear to touch on the 22.
Possession was won at the set piece, with North looking secure at the line-out throughout, but two kicks by Knowles were charged down, and play continued in the Reigate half, with Glyn wining a penalty in midfield. That was taken quickly but a handling error gave Reigate the put-in at the scrum. The powerful Glyn forward pack continued to apply pressure, but after the scrum had been reset several times Reigate were awarded a free kick, taken quickly by scrum half Edward McTavish who broke through at pace on the left. Bouncing off a couple of attempted tackles he was eventually pulled down by the cover defence inside the 22, but possession was retained and the ball was moved quickly through the hands to the right where centre Dominic Flynn squeezed in at the corner. The touchline conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
After Reigate had managed a successful exit from the restart, Knowles finding touch on half way, Glyn were penalised twice, allowing Reigate to set up an attacking line-out on the right. With clean possession again won by North, play was switched to the left and McTavish crashed over, Knowles adding the extras.
With half time approaching it looked as if the home side would reach the interval with a convincing lead, but from the restart the Epsom-based school soon took play back into the Reigate 22. Although a clearance kick was made, it was run back by left wing Eddie English who stepped his way past a couple of attempted tackles before being stopped by a tackle by North that was judged by the referee to be sufficiently high to warrant a yellow card. Glyn looked to make good use of the man advantage, driving to the left corner. The forwards made repeated thrusts at the line from only a couple of metres out on what would clearly be the final play of the half, but the Reigate defence was tenacious, with excellent body positions taken. Eventually Benton forced his way over and got downward pressure. The conversion attempt from wide out was unsuccessful, with the wind gathering in strength and blowing the ball off the tee as the kick was being taken.
Half-time: Reigate GS 19-5 Glyn School
With the gap narrowed to two scores one sensed that a shift in momentum was coming. With North still off the field, Reigate had difficulty in winning line-out ball and Glyn prop Euan Clifford carried to make some hard yards. However, with the yellow card over, the Reigate forwards went through several phases and forced a penalty, giving them the chance to set up an attacking line-out on the left, but with the wind continuing to strengthen the throw in was ruled not straight. With Finney picking up from the ensuing scrum, the box kick clearance was made.
The earlier sunshine was now gone, with a band of torrential rain being blown horizontally across the pitch. Conditions could hardly have been more unpleasant, both for playing and spectating, and the visitors now started to make their weight advantage up front tell, forcing a penalty at the scrum. With good field position obtained, the pressure continued from a line-out in the right corner and, when Reigate were penalised again, Glyn opted for a scrum. Finney picked up at the base and the pick-and-go tactic took play into the left corner before scrum half Herbie Archer plunged over for his side’s second try. The conversion attempt from wide out was unsuccessful.
Although Reigate were still two scores clear, they were now under severe pressure with the worsening conditions favouring the visiting side, and the penalty count against the home team began to mount. When play was taken deep into the left corner another score seemed likely, as Finney drove towards the line, but he was well tackled and forced to concede a penalty for holding on.
With Reigate clearing to touch, they had seemingly weathered the storm and the weather also began to improve. The Reigate defence continued to be tenacious and, when a turnover was forced and Knowles kicked to gain field position, Glyn were twice penalised and Reigate were able to set up an attacking line-out on the left. Although the set piece possession was won, the Glyn defence held firm and the clearance was made. With time running out Glyn had one last chance to narrow the gap, winning a penalty on half way, but they were again frustrated by the Reigate defence.
Reigate were clinical in their finishing when conditions were reasonable in the first half and built a lead that gave them just enough breathing space to resist a spirited comeback by Glyn from just before the interval. The game was still in the balance midway through the second half. While Reigate will now begin to prepare for the Sevens season, Glyn face some tough 15 a side fixtures after Christmas, including games against Whitgift and John Fisher.
Full-time: Reigate GS 19-10 Glyn School
By Peter Crawshaw
Reigate GS: Henry Dawson, Tommy Radford, Sayon Kirubakaran, Joe Jenner (Capt), Patrick Florida-James, Jack Grant, Matthew North (Vice-Capt), Nat Kenyon (Vice-Capt), Edward McTavish, Owen Knowles, Luke Perkins, Charlie Jackman, Dominic Flynn, Alexander Kowal, Xander Lawson
Replacements: Joey Cross, Daniel Fitzgerald, Charlie Jenner, Tom Dénecé, Chris Vassou
Glyn School: Euan Clifford , Finlay Milton, Toby Evans. Paddy Cox, Claudio Borrotzu, Daffyd James, Jack Benton , Kieran Finney, Herbie Archer, Lewis Wakefield, Eddie English,
Josh Mitchell, Dan Jones, Tomiwa, Louey Hurley
Replacements: Callum Hilton, Oscar Munslow, Carter Edwards, Patrick Humphries