Watford Through to Next Round
By Martin Lee
Watford won their first competitive fixture of the 2018-19 season with a hard fought win away at Uxbridge in the opening round of the HM2 Shield.
Despite fielding a squad including three first team debutants in B. Wilson, Harriott & Landen, Watford started well and looked to implement the free flowing, expansive rugby implemented by Sean Silver and his coaching team during the off season. The away side looked threatening with the ball in hand, every player in a red, white and blue shirt keen to get their hands on the ball. Harriott was especially industrious in the middle of the park, linking up well with Captain Bram to constantly threaten the Uxbridge defence.
Watford opened the scoring in the 15th minute after good work from Scott Menzies at the breakdown led to a turnover for the visiting team. From the resultant ruck, Bram found Harricott running a tight line to take Watford further into the Uxbridge 22 before quick ball put hooker Tom Gordon through a gap. Gordon showed exactly why he was shifted from wing to front row when he was caught on the line, however a deft offload put Radish over for the opening score and a 5-0 lead.
The visitors were on the attack almost immediately from the re-start, Routley, Hancock and Landen combining well up the wing before losing possession. Watford were not be denied however, quick hands from another turnover within Uxbridge’s red zone putting McClennon through to dot down.
Despite being behind on the scoreboard, Uxbridge continued to plug away at the Watford defence and gradually grew into the game. The home side used their pack to good effect, ball carriers continually wrapping round the corner in attempt to break down the visitors resilience. After a sustained period of pressure on the Watford line, Uxbridge eventually breached Watford’s defence to bring themselves to within a score.
Things went from bad to worse for us, Upton getting his timing wrong when attempting a tackle and seeing yellow. This saw Uxbridge grow into the game, Watford doing well to hang on until the half time break.
We upped the intensity for the second period, looking to pressurise the Uxbridge attack with an increased line speed and improved physicality. Pressure led to a charge down in the middle of the park from McClennon, second row colleague Routley swooping on the loose ball before releasing Harriott to speed under the sticks and score the try his performance deserved. Watford soon scored again through the returning Tom McGee, giving themselves some breathing space.
Uxbridge, realising that they faced elimination from this seasons HM2 Shield, roused themselves and attacked Watford with a renewed ferocity to score a converted try and bring themselves back into the game. Despite Uxbridge enjoying the lion’s share of territory and possession, Watford managed to add a fifth somewhat against the run of play. A well placed grubber from Bram forced Uxbridge to carry the ball back over their own line. From the resultant scrum, the Watford pack turned on the pressure to earn a penalty which was quickly taken by scrum half Ben Wilson to dot down. With 15 minutes remaining, Watford were 15 points to the good.
This led to arguably one of the most pleasing aspects of the weekend’s performance, as Uxbridge proceeded to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at the visiting side. Some of the hits put in by Watford were monstrous, constantly driving the opposition carriers back past the gain line. Credit to man of the match Ben Wilson, who proved size is no substitute for technique by regularly taking down players twice his size. Unfortunately for Watford, over eagerness to pressurise the Uxbridge defence saw numerous penalties conceded with Harriott paying the price for repeated Watford indiscipline and being sent to the bin. Despite Uxbridge being out of time to rescue the game, the home side showed a lot of heart in continuing to lay siege to the Watford line. For our part, we refused to buckle and a tough encounter was bought to an end when the ball was held up over the line.
All in all, a solid performance from a relatively young and inexperienced Watford side who did enough to progress to the next round. At times some of our attacking play is a joy to behold, however the next stage of progression is to maintain that level of intensity and application for the entire match. A solid foundation before next week’s league opener against London Scottish, with some very tough selection calls to make as senior players become available once more.
Man of the Match: Ben Wilson – outstanding shift without the ball, was absolutely everywhere defensively. Capped off a fine performance with a well taken try.