League: Old Ruts RFC Vs Croydon RFC

Bright conditions and the return of some old faces added some positivity for Croydon’s visit to Old Rutlishians. A team reshuffle during the warm up resulted in Walker drawing the short straw and filling in at outside centre but another well attended training session had instilled some new lessons for the whole team to put into practice. More encouragement was generated by the 2nd XV being able to field a side against Warlingham, helping add more strength in depth to the squad.

Croydon knew exactly what to expect from a tough previous fixture against Ruts – a team pushing for promotion with the most dangerous back line in the league. Unfortunately, simply being aware of these strengths was not enough to stop them. Croydon were caught cold by the home team’s quick hands and quicker feet, conceding several early tries in the process.

The Poppies struggled for a foothold in a frustrating first half. The powerful carrying of Humphrey and Gleig was being successfully rucked and secured by Dammers and Shrimpton. However, as soon as Ruts got a sniff of the ball it ended up beneath Croydon’s posts.

With two minutes to go, Croydon finally started to show signs of what they were capable of and turned over a kick-off to work their way up the pitch. A five metre lineout was illegally spoiled by Ruts and resulted in a sin bin for the opposition. With the Poppies unsure of how to make the most of the following penalty, Lyell took initiative and, in a solo effort, bulldozed through three Ruts players and over the tryline. The half time whistle blew and despite a one-sided scoreline, Croydon rallied behind Lyell’s late try.

In the second half, reliability in the set piece was much welcomed, where Matthews and Griffiths were immovable in the scrum while Defrates dished out successful lineouts like Tom Brady in his prime. Curtis and Bond’s creative distribution was getting recycled and the team were moving forward. A rare Ruts error from a ruck was punished by your humble narrator who escaped with the ball and was gifted a wide open run-in to the posts.

Old Ruts answered back but the match was now much more competitive than in the first half. Billy’s timely message to up the aggression was being received, from Curtis and Shrimpton driving the ball past the gain line, to Cousins and both Smiths hitting everything in defence, to Bond furiously attacking the conversion frame, smashing kicks against both the upright and the crossbar.

In attack, Croydon mirrored the conditions of the changing room, remaining very, very tight. Benefitting from a couple of decisions against Ruts, Bond was able to kick into dangerous territory and lineout maestro Griffiths rolled back the years to roll over two mauls in quick succession, the latter guaranteeing a bonus point for tries scored.

With the clock winding down, there was still time for some unprecedented flair from the backs. Camped inside Ruts’ 22, Bond aimed a chip over the line for Drummey to latch onto in the corner, fighting of competition and breaking over the line to score. Jack’s final effort meant Croydon walked off the pitch with a 24-17 second half victory.

While the overall result wasn’t as favourable, the Poppies could take several positive lessons from the match. Moreover, a first ever try bonus of point showed real attacking promise from the team and a precious point that may make all the difference come the end of the season.

Final Score: Old Rutlishians 64 – 31 Croydon

Tries: Lyell, Biggs, Griffiths (2), Drummey

Conversions: Bond (3)

Notable Mentions:

Gleig: A massive positive to see Sam return to the starting lineup after a lengthy absence, his impact was both immediate and immense. Playing in both the forwards and backs he was seemingly everywhere on the pitch, winning lineouts, creating attacking chances and making a nuisance of himself in defence like a metaphorical (and literal) punch to the balls.

Curtis: Another returning face with a big performance, Ginge shored up the distribution channels. Linking well with Bond and the forwards, he helped transform Croydon’s phase play into a much more dangerous force. Defensively solid, he also made try saving tackles on more than one occasion.

Griffiths: Steve has been central to the lineout, creating moves in training and calling plays in the game. His impact had been instrumental in helping the lineout to become a great attacking platform for the team and this was well demonstrated throughout the match. He played a critical role the success of the set pieces and scored an unexpected but well-deserved brace albeit using Defrates as a human shield.

Lyell: Two tries in two matches, Lyell’s powerful running is a key weapon within the Poppies back line. A destructive force with the ball in hand, he always managed to break the gain line and push the team in the right direction. Scored at a critical moment, completing an individual effort to open Croydon’s account and bring some self-belief to the team, which was built on in the second half.

Surrey Cup Croydon RFC Vs Reigate RFC

Match Report – Croydon Vs Reigate

The first game of 2018 was a chance to blow away the Christmas cobwebs and start fresh after a difficult year. From huge numbers at training despite torrential rain, to a massive contingent of supporters despite Baltic temperatures, the New Year buzz was widespread. Billy’s Aussie flu man cold meant the captain’s armband was given to Yorkie, while Craig Walker’s return from injury to the starting lineup was (allegedly) long awaited and much anticipated by all.

The pack lined up, desperate to show off their newly honed and well-oiled kick reception drills from training but had to wait as Reigate couldn’t kick ten metres. In the following scrum, the solid front row of Griffiths, A. Matthews and S. Matthews put down an early marker, outsizing their opponents and letting them know it would be a long 80 minutes.

Building on early consistency in the set piece and some aggressive ‘Northern’ defending, Croydon set up camp in the opposing half. Frustratingly, the team couldn’t get over the try line but the sustained pressure won a penalty under the posts for Bond to put the Poppies 3-0 up. With powerful runs from Curtis and Drummy combined with solid distribution from Smith and Bond, Croydon knew tries would follow. The only question was who the first scorer of 2018 would be…needless to say, Dammers had the last laugh. Running a piercing supporting line, he sliced through the Reigate defence and touched down under near the posts to cries of “Aha!”

Croydon seemed to be getting into their stride with Shrimpton and Defrates finding repeated success at the break down. From a pile up on the try line, the ball was shipped to Humphrey who crashed over from close range, giving Bond another straightforward conversion. More tries appeared ready for the taking but some Christmas rust and a disagreement with the referee over the finer details of the latest scrummaging laws meant the Poppies were unable to increase their lead and had to settle for finishing the half with the score at 17-0.

After some positive, constructive encouragement from Griffiths, Croydon began the second half fired up. Henderson capitalised on a handling error, stealing the ball from the opposition and sprinting half the pitch to score. Unfortunately, his dazzling run broke his own hamstring as well as Reigate’s spirit. Thankfully, Captain Humphrey was on call to step in for the injured centre and even manage his own steal and 40 metre dash though lacking Jake’s pace and finish.

With complacency setting in from the Poppies, Reigate sensed an opportunity. The bench was emptied with Harvell and Smith adding strength and pace going forward while Cousins, Broadbent and Ware all put in powerful defensive contributions. Yet despite edging the battle in the loose, Croydon lost their grip over the set piece. Turnovers at lineouts and scrums resulted in Reigate walking a 5 metre scrum over the line to prevent a shutout.

Croydon kept pressing for tries but sloppy errors meant opportunities continued to be wasted. With the clock winding down, more line out confusion gave Reigate a penalty on their own ten metre and one final attack. However, Lyell had different ideas and snatched away their last push with an interception to dot down under the posts. The final whistle blew and celebratory music rang around the changing room as the Poppies’ 2018 unbeaten run remained intact.

Final Score Croydon 31 – Reigate 7

Tries: Dammers, Humphrey, Henderson, Lyell

Conversions: Bond (4)

Penalties: Bond

Honourable mentions:

Yorkie: The captain led by example making strong runs with ball in hand and defending like a league player. Fired the team up when needed, scored a deserved try and, with a bit/lot more gas, could have had a second.

Dammers: Demonstrated his learning from training by catching kick offs like Billy catches colds. A constant presence in defence and support. Huge effort was rewarded with a try.

Drummy: The back of the match was one of the few players on the team who can boast being able to run the length of the pitch faster than he can down a pint. A menace to the opposition back line, pressuring his opposite number and refusing to let Reigate play any wide options. Elusive in attack and unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.

Curtis: A composed performance at full back. Great counter running meant Croydon were rarely under pressure when the ball was kicked deep. Ran back and smothered the ball to save what seemed a certain try after an opposition charge down. Attacking runs built solid platforms which led to tries.

Editor's note: Our forward of the match was a new addition to the squad in Matt 'From 4th Floor' Biggs. Matt is quickly proving himself invaluable in the second row and was instrumental in several key turnovers and always a willing ball carrier. He's also too modest to mention himself. 

Match report – Matt Biggs