London 3 North/West 10/09/2016
Cheshunt 10 Grasshoppers 10
Cheshunt started their league campaign in the new division, with a hard fought draw. Although they had built a 10 point advantage in the first half, Grasshoppers had more of the possession in the second period and opportunities to clinch the game for the hosts diminished as the game wore on. Conceding height and weight to the visitors, Cheshunt did remarkably well at the scrum and lineout to claim all their own ball and often disrupted the Grasshoppers set piece, tackling around the park, as always, was first rate and the visitors rarely gained any ground with ball in hand. Just 3 minutes into the game and Grasshoppers had the first chance to get points on the board, Cheshunt not releasing at the breakdown on the 10 yard line saw the kick pushed wide. The incessant drizzle made handling difficult and although both teams were keen to run, better ground was gained with kicks, Cheshunt able to use the gentle breeze in the first half to keep the visitors mostly in their own half, as C’s started to enjoy the better of the territorial battle. Cheshunt kick chase was very good all afternoon and following a punt ahead by Tom Claridge, Dale Gardener put the Grasshoppers defender under pressure, this time they managed to clear their lines and they raised a brief attack of their own, but the defending scrum from C’s was always in control and the ball was soon back up field. Again under pressure from the kick chase, the visitors slowed the ball down at the breakdown and Reece Shoebridge knocked over the penalty from 35 metres to open the scoring after 17 minutes. Grasshoppers turned down a long range penalty chance and opted to kick up the line, for an attacking lineout, 15 metres from the Cheshunt line, but the ball was turned over, kicked down field and the chasing Cheshunt attackers were rewarded when Grasshoppers spilt the ball on half way. Claridge beat a couple of defenders in the broken play and fed Dale Gardener who scooted past the remaining Grasshopper defender and in near the posts, Shoobridge’s extras took the score to 10-0 after 24 minutes. Another penalty awarded to the visitors at the re-start was kicked to the corner, again the Cheshunt defence held firm until they were able to clear and the home side finished the half on top, Joel Bailey instrumental in starting the next attack, he thumped into the fly half who spilt the ball, Bailey hacked on and Grasshoppers transgressed again at the breakdown, this time the attempt just faded wide and C’s had to be content with a 10-0 advantage at the break. Despite a very obvious size difference the Cheshunt pack scrummaged magnificently all game, Jake Phillips, Gregg Morris and the Hussey brothers Ryan and Aaron worked hard in the front row, Dean Gardener, Connor Pearce, Alex Clark and Bailey took on the big men in the loose and Aydan Duligall was quick around the park, snuffing out attacks and winning back possession. Neither side were able to put together a string of phases to threaten the scoreboard until the visitors had a penalty after 12 minutes of the second period, they reduced the deficit to 7 points and 4 minutes later had the chance to double their score but this time the kick was pushed wide. Grasshoppers were enjoying the majority of the ball and they used the breeze to good effect, but still couldn’t penetrate the Cheshunt defence with ball in hand, when Cheshunt had the ball they could still look dangerous especially when Bobby Bolton and Bailey combined to counter attack. Debutants Sam Rule and Kaz Topham both had impressive debuts and the whole team worked tirelessly to repel the visitor’s attacks, especially in mid field, where the big Grasshoppers forwards tried to smash the ball through the middle, they were often pushed back in the tackle and the home side held out until 8 minutes from time. Eventually Grasshoppers forced their way over after a series of forward drives to set up a grandstand finish, the excellent conversion levelled the scores. C’s nearly created a chance from the re-start, Bailey nicked the ball in contact, Bolton’s clever kick over the advancing Grasshoppers defence was just out of the reach of Topham and Grasshoppers were relieved when they were able to clear. Both teams then remained resolute in defence and had to settle for 2 points and honours even. Next week, Cheshunt travel to Hertfordshire rivals Datchworth and will hope for a repeat of their cup performance, when they eased past them at home.