Last Saturday was a red-letter day for Winchester men’s rugby. The first team’s bonus-point 37-5 away win at Salisbury, the 2s’ 37-20 home win against Fordingbridge, the 3s’ 38-17 away win against Tottonians and the Knights’ 64-12 home win against Alresford, meant a clean sweep of their opposition.

The first-team match against Salisbury was a real game of two halves, with only 16 points scored by the two teams in the first 40 minutes, and 28 in the second.

Salisbury had a strong pack and for a while outplayed Winchester in the set pieces, the visitors losing possession in the first lineout and shoved off the ball on their own put-in to the scrum until the visitors’ front row complained to Dorset and Wiltshire Society referee Stuart Kilby that Salisbury loose-head prop Aiden Gill was boring in.

Winchester, reputedly with the best defence in the RFU’s Central South 2 league, held Salisbury who were unable to visit the Winchester’s 22 in the first 20 minutes. Winchester were first on the scoreboard with a penalty to full-back Tommy Hare. For a moment it looked as though Salisbury centre Will Murley had broken through for an interception try, but the referee called them back for a knock-on, and Winchester’s scrum did better with Mr Kilby keeping his eye on the loose-head prop.

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester celebrate

Winchester hooker Jimmy Wallis uncharacteristically overthrew at a line-out, Salisbury took possession and Winchester conceded a penalty for offside. Salisbury kicked to the corner, won the lineout and mauled over the line for a try, missing the conversion kick. Salisbury were in the lead 5-3, but that was the last time they bothered the scoreboard.

Salisbury’s lead lasted only five minutes, Winchester’s Hare kicking another penalty after a Salisbury forward held onto the ball after being tackled to make it 5-6.

With only two minutes of the first half left, Winchester scored their first try, Wallis touching down in the maul following a lineout on Salisbury’s 5-metre line. Half-time, and Winchester 5-11 in the lead.
Salisbury appeared rattled by Mr Kilby’s strict enforcement of the laws, and they conceded an offside penalty from Winchester’s kick-off. As Salisbury’s forwards tired and with all three of their substitutes already on for injured players, Winchester coaches Gaz Martin and Chris Searle began to switch players off and back on to their bench. 

As Winchester’s substitutes Jim Beavan, Will Wilson and Jack Rowley came on for Ben Turner, Golding and winger Fin Strangeway, prop Alex Lee had his first, if brief, experience of captaining the team.

Winchester could now attack almost at will, and the second half became something of a procession, with tries for centres Kyle Dreyer and Tom Forster, who got the luck of the bounce as scrum-half Connor Breen grubber-kicked through the home defence, followed by No 8 and captain Matt Golding, and finally winger Tom Banks. Second-row substitute Will Wilson also claimed one, but Mr Kilby disagreed with him.

“Seven of our eight backs today were under 20”, said coach Gaz Martin after the match, “including Kyle Dreyer, scoring his first try for the first team. I’m particularly proud of our youngsters, but the energy and commitment of our whole squad today was huge, and I can’t praise them too highly.”