PINNER ARE CHAMPIONS!
Pinner Rugby Football Club –match report for Sat 11th April
Pinner win the play- off final
Man of the Match: Neill King
Having gone all season with a 100% win record to secure first place in the Middlesex merit Table 5 and having defeated 4th placed Chiswick in the semi-final Pinner faced the much sterner task of Hammersmith & Fulham in the play-off final at Wasps on Saturday. This was just one of six finals in a festival of Merit Table rugby held at the Wasps and Middlesex county HQ in Acton.
Strong wind most across the ground and a bone hard surface made conditions difficult. Right from the kick-off Pinner’s powerful pack showed its intent and were soon camped in the H&F 22. Pushing back the opposition‘s scrum led to a ruck and the ball was quickly got to their powerful left wing John [Bow] Petrella to get the first try after only 3 minutes. From the re-start Pinner again won the scrum and number 8 Andrew Alexander burst through from the half-way line only to be brought down well in the H&F 22. Pinner were not to be denied and kept pressing. Winning yet another scrum Alexander picker up and drove over for the second try to give a 10 – 0 lead. Constant probing by scrum-half Chris Jepsen kept up the momentum. Hammersmith & Fulham made a few excursions into the Pinner half but ferocious tackling and a well organised defence ensured little opportunity to threaten. On one of these around half –way Pinner fly-half Chris Hall intercepted a H&F pass to sprint 50 m to score under the posts. This time Jepsen’s kick was successful and the lead stretched to 17 – 0. An injury to influential wing-forward Dan Smith caused a re-organisation of the Pinner pack with replacement Dave Logan going into the second-row but this in no- way weakened their dominance. With half-time approaching Logan proved his worth when following a series of rucks near the H&F line he drove over for the fourth try to give Pinner a comfortable 22 – 0 lead at the interval.
The second half proved a different story. The wind, having veered to the north, was now in Pinner’s face making progress up field very difficult. Hammersmith made full use of this wind kicking deep into the Pinner half. The Pinner defence was resolute and time and time again they resisted the H&F attacks. Eventually the pressure told and some sloppy covering allowed H&F in for a try. This inspired the opposition who now sensed an opportunity. On the half-hour the swirling wind ruined a Pinner line-out which H&F capitalised upon. A few quick passes and they scored under the post. Pinner’s lead was now reduced to 22 -12. Captain Aaron Nicholas now rallied his team and egged on by the biggest and most vocal group of supporters on the ground the Pinner were not going to see their season ruined in the last few minutes. Stirling defence, courageous tackles and the line was held. Agonising extra minutes of injury time all added to the drama but when the final whistle blew Pinner were Champions by 22 -12.
The Middlesex Shield was presented to Aaron Nicholas by Michael Barnes, immediate Past President on Middlesex Rugby and himself a vice-president and former captain and chairman of Pinner. The celebrations were unreserved continuing back on the coach and well into the night at the Pinner clubhouse in Hatch End.
Next Saturday, with the chance of a double, Pinner travel to Twickenham RFC for the final of the Merit Cup kicking-off at 3:00 pm. The coach for the team and supporters will leave Shaftesbury Playing fields around 12 noon. All support welcome as having had the largest group at Wasps certainly inspired the team.