By Chey Dupe
Chipstead - Just lose out to 12-10 South Molton in the Junior Vase National Semi-Final
Arriving at a ground where there were numerous people on the pitch either laying new turf, filling trenches with sand or using massive sponges to remove surface water was not exactly what the players needed but the fact the game went on at all was a minor miracle.
In reality the conditions played entirely into the home teams hands - the big physical pack keeping the ball tight meant it was always going to be a difficult day at the office for the much smaller forwards of Chipstead.
Once again Chipstead started the brighter of the two sides utilising as much of the firmer parts of the ground as possible to really put the home side under pressure and were rewarded when a well worked backs move opened up a big gap for Captain Ed Bush, having to revert back to fly-half in the absence of Tommy, to scamper through and score under the posts which he converted himself.
Unfortunately the small areas of grass that could be called a pitch disappeared and the game became a muddy arm wrestle - neither side really keeping control of the ball for long enough to put any real pressure on the opposition. Then in the last few minutes of the half a yellow card to Boz meant the Chipstead forwards had to work extra hard and were eventually pushed back over the line for the equalising try duly converted and the ref brought the game to a halt.
HT - South Molton 7 v Chipstead 7
On an energy sapping pitch Coach Andy had already made a number of rotations in an attempt to keep the players as fresh as possible so the rallying team talk lifted the spirits and once again (once the referee had finished his extended break in the changing room) the match resumed. Neither side took a backward step or fell off tackles and the crowd knew it was going to go to the wire. South Moltons forwards were seeing more of the ball and continued to run hard lines but after a rare foray in to the opposition half Chipstead were rewarded with a kickable penalty when one on the forwards would (or possibly could) not roll away. Ed stepped up and took his personal and the teams tally to 10.
The inevitable re-commencement of the forward battering resumed the home side showed no ambition than to more the ball past the fly-half other than to a crashing centre bringing it back to the forwards. With the match in it's final quarter Chipstead were finding it more difficult to even get out of their half.
Then what came next was quite unbelievable - considering the pitch conditions were now resembling a scene from the Somme and that in the first 60 minutes only one scrum had gone down (a minor miracle) the, apparently, high level referee deemed it necessary to send Mitch from the field for collapsing a scrum ! More changes necessary but the scrum held firm and South Molton still could not unlock the resolute Chipstead defensive line. It was then apparent that the reason they did not move the ball wide was actually due to the lack of skills of the back-line who could just not exploit the space. Jeevo rushed up and ripped the ball from the outside centre and as the ball fell free kicked it clear of trouble or at least that was what the 500 odd people in the crowd saw. The referee, however, decided that Jeevo had kicked the ball out of a ruck and decided to brandish another yellow card !
Playing most of the last 11 minutes with only 13 men was going to be a momentous up-hill task but the boys in Blue and Gold knew they could stay relatively tight as South Molton could not trust their backs to string a passage of play together so kicked to the corner and lay siege to the Chipstead line.
Wave upon wave of attacks broke on the line but none could find a way through but with 3 minutes left inevitably South Molton were awarded a try in the corner the conversion went well wide of the post but the South Molton players and home crowd believed that the game was won. Mitch was allowed to return to the fray and then the 14 men of Chipstead gave everything to try and get any kind of score to steel the game back their way and it got very close indeed keeping the ball tight and with a real gritty determination the tight 8 really took it to the wire driving the ball from half way right to within two yards of the try line. A deliberate killing of the ball was rewarded with a penalty (interestingly no yellow card) and the ref called last play.
In an attempt to keep the big forwards on the back foot Ed attempted to go quick and passed the ball out but the ball was agonisingly spilled forward in the tackle and the game was up.
FT – South Molton 12 v Chipstead 10
The players, coaches and the 140 odd travelling supporters were left devastated but knew to a person that every man who had stepped on the field had given every ounce of effort and could not ask anything else from them.
In a very competitive match played in the very best of spirits and exemplary discipline by both sides it is very difficult to understand how there had been three yellow cards given to the visiting side by the Devon based referee..? It might of been good to discuss his views but he walked home straight after the match.
The bottom line though is that everyone involved, agreed, that the Junior Vase is now unfinished business......