Chard take on Crewkerne in Easter ‘virtual’ meeting and honours end even

Players from Chard and Crewkerne rugby clubs after a past derby match. The pair 'met' in a virtual g

Players from Chard and Crewkerne rugby clubs after a past derby match. The pair 'met' in a virtual game during Easter 2020. Picture: CHARD RFC - Credit: Archant

Following the disappointment of the Boxing Day fixture being washed out nothing could stop Chard hosting their nearest rivals, Crewkerne, in the traditional Easter fixture – with all taking place despite the restrictions in place vis-a-vis the Covid-19 crisis, writes Gavin Smillie

I should point out at this stage that the fixture was a ‘virtual one’ so there was no flouting of the social distancing laws!

The contest was played out as live with all the players ibn a chat group followed by a video link ‘post-match’ for the customary drinks!

Suffice to say, we are confident that it was the only game of rugby played over Easter – and thus, the fact it all ended in an honourable draw it most fitting!

Availability being unusually high, both squads were filled with legends from local rugby including a return of senior veteran Mike Berry who starts his first game in three years at scrum half and Duncan Singleton made a surprise return after his disappointing outing of 12 months before!

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Chard won the toss and opted to receive the ball at the start and Mr Dave Mealing, the man with the whistle, got proceedings underway.

Drew kicked off with a high ball barely going 10 meters allowing plenty of time for the Crewkerne pack to put pressure on Keith Milton who had gathered and taken the ball to ground allowing Chard to clear the ball moving play into the visitors’ half.

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Crewkerne full back, J Baker, ran back at pace towards the Chard defence before a fine pass to James Glover, who split the Chard players and ran from his own 22 only to be cut down by a fierce tackle from Ross Fanyinka a few meters from the line!

With a ragged defence, Crewkerne should have scored, and would have done, but for a missed catch and knock on, much to Chards bemusement an infringement was seen and the visitors opted for an attacking scrum in front of the posts.

With a stalemate in the scrum, Crewkerne number eight Neil Padfield picked up the ball and was stopped in his tracks by Whitehouse.

The home defence was solid, but when the ball went out wide, the overlap allowed Matt Neeble to go over in the corner and with Rob Cottle getting the extras from the widest of angles, Crewkerne led 7-0.

Kevin George kicked the restart and speedsters Ben Stead and John Hewitt secured the ball for the home team giving Chard a good attacking platform, with typical Chard ‘grunt’, Brian Sugar, Gavin Smillie and Mick Duffy made the hard yards progressing towards the line, but Crewkerne chucked everything at them in defence, it was Neil Henley that broke through the first line of defence only to be caught by Hooker and the maul came to nothing giving Crewkerne position.

Rob Howards beautifully judged cross-field kick to Rob Cottel put the winger in space.

Ivor Watts managed to run him down and put in a stunning covering tackle to prevent him scoring and Stu Sugar cleared downfield.

With fresh legs brought on the pitch, John Daniel showed that he could still move, and, with a kick up the field he moved the visitors into another attacking position giving the centre partnership of Turney and Goodison an opportunity to ‘show-boat’ before setting up Chris Dunlop for Crewkernes second converted try to give them a 14-0 lead, much to the delight of the traveling fans led by Simon Shackleford.

Chard made some changes bringing on Gold and Adams looking to spread the ball around at pace, and, when the visitors were penalised for an infringement, Chard were awarded an easy penalty in front of the posts, slotted by Mick Duffy to reduce the Crewkerne lead by three points.

From the restart, Chard continued with the pressure and they soon had another opportunity to kick and this time Wayne Lewis added another three points to close the gap between the teams to eight points.

Chard really were in a purple patch but were still chasing the game and it took Boobyer and Clapp to link up to drive over for Chards opening try to make the score 11-14 closing the gap for the briefest of time as Crewkerne came straight back and, this time a try from Yuddel converted by Simpson enabled the visiting side to troop off at the break holding a 21-11 advantage.

Chard got the second half underway after making more changes, but again Crewkerne were able to move the ball about and Grant Jackson was the next on the score sheet increasing the lead to 26-11, but the kick, from out wide, was missed.

Crewkerne were now in a commanding position and at every opportunity they slowed the ball down denying Chard the ball, given the opportunity to kick at goal again they increased their lead to 29-11 through the boot of Voss, leaving Chard with a mountain to climb.

Clearly, the home side now had to do something to avoid Crewkerne going home with bragging rights and Tom Jones stepped up to get the next score with a break through and sprint to the line passing to Watts to finish the move and, with Steve Handyman slotting the conversion, the deficit was reduced to one of 11 points at 29-18.

Again Chard pressed into Crewkerne territory putting pressure on defence in all areas with Martin Pattemoore making more than one try-saving tackles, but something had to give and Mike Farthing got over the line to take Chard to within four points of the visitors at 29-25.

With the final whistle not far away Chard upped the pace and again put the visitors under immense pressure and it was Keith Milton who elevated himself to hero status with a move strait from the premiership handbook scoring under the posts giving Chard the lead for the first time kicking his own conversion

The match was deep into bar time and it looked like Chard had comeback from the jaws of defeat until Chard’s number nine, got on the wrong side of the referee which led to a penalty to Crewkerne.

Rob Howard tapped and was subsequently powered over and then stepped up to convert his try and leave the game ending with honours even at 39-39.

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