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)
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