London Irish Wild Geese 29 – 27 Winchester RFC

This was an epic contest which saw Winchester fall agonisingly short at 29 – 27 away, to London Irish Wild Geese. The start was pulsating as Irish, pumped up and playing to the dynamic beat of their resident drummers, forced Winchester back and demolished the forward pack in the first scrum of the game. Winchester were all at sea.

There was an awful sinking feeling as Irish Number 8 Ed Harte crashed over for a converted try. Not content, Irish continued to pile forward, bullying Winchester into submission. This was Winchester’s first big test at this level.

Winchester began to fathom out a new gameplan. They do make it difficult for teams to win against them. Controlled precision forced a penalty that Tommy Hare stroked over. Irish who must have thought they had the game, began to stutter as Winch exploited weakness in their backs. As Winch harried, they forced players back with strong defensive lines and then, a moment of magic.

A brilliant lineout taken by Paddy Dunne saw the ball wide and a sequence of carries sliced open the Irish defence. It was the first time Winch had possession and they went over under the posts. Full back Tom Fieldsend finished it, doing what all good full backs do, providing the extra man to score. The conversion by Hare took them into the lead. But Irish, unbeaten all season have a brutal edge and a nose for victory. The dogged power of their forwards saw them over either side of half time. Inside centre, Henry Fuller was to kick all the points and provided what looked to be the final blow. Fuller picked off a looping pass and ran the length of the field to score the bonus point try.  At 26 – 10 Winch were in deep trouble.

Coach Gareth Martin’s call to “Keep playing, it will come.“ provided a call to arms. Winch kept playing their game, the whole team game, and  set up an incredible last twenty minutes. Winch had to restructure with Hare and Moore off, and debutant Gerard Ellis moved from the pack to the centres. 

As Irish began to tire, under the wave of attacking play,  Ellis provided the bludgeon, forcing his way through, to take the score to 26 – 15.

Winchester kept up the relentless pressure and a third try followed as Winchester cut loose across the field with prop Jim Beavan providing both pace and grace to feed wing Kyle Dreyer, who touched down.

With the clock approaching time, Irish slumped and Winch did it again. Dreyer went over in the corner and a fourth bonus point try was secured. A conversion would tie the match, but it dipped below. The whistle blew and as the drumrolls pounded, the luck of Irish held.

Captain Matt Golding “We got two league points here, and I don’t think many teams will come away with points, but it could have been so much more. The boys showed fantastic character throughout.  Playing out of position they were phenomenal”.

Coach Martin “They are by far the best team we’ve played and when you get to that level you don’t have to do very much wrong to lose; but you have to do an awful lot right to win!”

Winchester did a lot right and but for two conversions and a penalty that went astray, could have won. It means next weeks home match against Tottonians is not to missed!