London 3 North West, 24th September 2016
Cheshunt 19 Stevenage 27
Cheshunt will rue some costly unforced errors, which could have seen them record a victory against one of the title favourites. Stevenage too were guilty of a few mistakes, but both teams contributed towards an open entertaining match, Stevenage scoring their final bonus point try with the last move of the match which took the losing bonus point away from their hosts. The visitors started with a drive down the middle of the pitch, however, when they entered the 22, Dean Gardener stole the ball, then Bobby Bolton and Dave Lever combined to give Dale Gardener a chance to race away down the left wing, but he lost control of the ball 25 metres out and Stevenage were able to clear. With the Cheshunt scrum again starting well, it wasn’t long before C’s were back in the 22, a penalty was taken quickly and the Green and Whites went through the phases, Bolton and Dean Gardener were involved again to set Sam Rule speeding towards the line, but he was held up just short. C’s were on top and were not going to be denied for long, Connor Pearce got in behind the defence with a trademark rampaging run, quick ball along the line found Lever and he brushed aside a would be tackler to cross the whitewash, Reece Shoobridge’s conversion opened a 7-0 lead after 12 minutes. A penalty to Stevenage on the half way mark gave them a chance to kick down the line and into C’s 22 for the first time since the opening minutes, they remained there until another penalty in front saw them reduce the deficit to 7-3 after 23 minutes. The game went from end to end, a Stevenage attack was turned over and Tom Claridge cleared down field to set up another Cheshunt raid, they created chances but were unable to convert them and just before the half time break, Stevenage gave them a lesson in how to be clinical when in the danger zone, a kick to the corner set up a catch and drive and the visitors nicked the lead with just a minute or so left on the clock. There was still time for C’s to get back in the Stevenage 22, but Josh Willcocks fell foul of the referee when he lifted the Stevenage player in the tackle and was sent to the bin. Stevenage soon extended their lead early in the second period, Cheshunt tried to get out of their half, but kicks into the stiffening breeze were returned and when the quick right winger got to within 10 metres the forwards kept possession and drove over, 7 -13. Stevenage were playing the better rugby, but the proud Cheshunt defence stood firm, repelling constant waves of attacking play, C’s were finally broken by the try of the match, the flyhalf and inside centre combined beautifully to see the right wing sear through the middle and in under the posts, with the extras the visitors had stretched to 7-20. Although the Cheshunt attacks had become less frequent, they still looked dangerous with ball in hand, Pearce again leading from the front with some storming runs, one of which led to a penalty which was kicked up the line. Gregg Morris took on the ball from the lineout, Claridge and Omid Amani took play into the 22 and Pearce was involved again as C’s approached the line, quick ball from Shoobridge to Bolton saw him dance through the retreating defence and in near the posts, another conversion from Shoobridge reduced the arrears to 14-20. The home side had the bit between their teeth and played some enterprising rugby, forwards and backs combining, to keep testing the Stevenage defence, as they pushed nearer the line, Morris appeared in the centre, he found Lever who drew the last defender and released Marvin Brown down the left wing and he dived over in the corner, this time Shoobridge couldn’t quite make the conversion, but it was a one point game with a few minutes on the clock. The visitors had a chance to settle the game, but a dropped pass with the line at their mercy reprieved C’s and the home side tried to manufacture a play that would get them down field to pinch the game, but as they got over halfway the ball was turned over, the Stevenage scrum half quickly cut through the defence and found his right winger in support to secure his brace, the conversion took the losing bonus point away and Cheshunt felt a little hard done by. The tough start to life in London 3 continues next week, Cheshunt travel to the other early pace setters, Hemel Hempstead, who sit top of the pile on points difference, one of three sides who have recorded a bonus point victory in all games so far.