Amersham & Chiltern travelled to Guildford for the first time on Saturday and came away with their first try bonus point of the season, although it wasn’t quite enough to see them through to a win.
In truth, although they played well and with great spirit, Guildford had a little too much experience at key times of a very entertaining game. Chiltern welcomed back Tom Blackburn for his first game in nearly 18 months and, though well off match fitness, he put in a terrific a shift and showed real glimpses of what the side have been missing without him.
A couple of late cry-offs and two players who arrived at the game with zero sleep after heavy work commitments didn’t stop Chiltern tearing into Guildford from the kick-off.
Both sides were driving forward well and both had good chances to score but strong defence stopped any scoring until concerted pressure saw the excellent blindside flanker for Guildford drive over the line for their first try, which was duly converted for a 7-0 lead.
Chiltern came back and twice threatened the opposition line before mistakes gave away possession which Guildford used to clear their lines. Some sloppy play then saw Guildford snap up possession in the Chiltern half to enable them to work their own overlap and their second try 12-0.
This really galvanised Chiltern and with some really excellent support play and good handling a quickly taken penalty saw Mike McDonald scythe through the Guildford backs before passing onto George Blewitt who slipped the ball back to McDonald who scored in the corner 12-5.
With only a couple of minutes left in the half Chiltern made a real hash of the restart conceding possession too easily and with two quick passes Guildford swept over the line for the their third try and a 19-5 half time lead which rather flattered them!
The start of the second half had Chiltern battering at the Guildford line. One of these attacks saw the ball switched wide and with a clear overlap for Chiltern but a delayed pass was greedily intercepted by the speedy Guildford fly-half who ran through against the run of play to score an unconverted try to increase their lead to 24-5.
Back came Chiltern and, showing real spirit and no less skill, great handling made space for Daley Aremu to cross in the left-hand corner for their second try 24-10. Again Chiltern made a mess of the restart and conceded a scrum on their own 22m line. Quick thinking by the Guildford scrum half and a little dink over the top bounced well for their winger who touched down wide out to increase their lead once more.
Chiltern then enjoyed probably their best period of the game as they played some smashing rugby. Guildford were reduced to giving away penalty after penalty and suffered two yellow cards.
The space afforded saw Dom Rice score an excellent try 31-15 and, whilst another error gave Guildford their final try, Chiltern had the last word as Mike McDonald crossed for his second try making the final score 36-20. Chiltern were unable to convert any of their tries but looked really sharp at times.