On a hot summer night, Croydon was eagerly waiting for their first game of the season under the new guidance from an old Shirley Wanderer Louis Allen, whom said he was more nervous for this than all the games he had played before, as it turns out, Louis had nothing to be nervous about.

The whistle blows to begin the match, months of hard training is evident, as we camped in Wokings half.

Croydon kept probing Wokings defence, then a beautiful kick through from, scrum half, baby Alex Griffiths and then picked up from fly half, Sam Curtis but got held just short of the line. The forwards settled in for the first scrum of the game and pushed the opposition back for a victorious scrum, with the ball comfortably at the back of the scrum, the “Ladies” had plenty of space to work, thus the ball worked through the hands of backs to full back Ben Drury, who then saw the beautiful inside centre Harry Worsop, back from what was, decades of injury, through with the first try of the game/season.

 This seemed to spur the boys on a few minutes later, again with a well organised attack, the ball flowed through the beautiful callused hands from almost the whole of the team to the reliable, openside flank or the club treasurer, Carl Shrimpton to go over for his wonder try into the corner, Croydons skipper, Jack Bond, slots it through the sticks from the touchline.

As Croydon win another scrum, the lads manage to get the ball out to winger, Jack Drummey who comfortably got his first try. Skipper converted again from a tight angle.


woking2.jpg

Then a little bit of ill-discipline creeps in to give them a penalty and 10 yards again for not retreating for them to jump over for their try which they converted.

Croydon pulled themselves together with some wise words from their Skip Jack under the posts.

Croydon regain the ball from the restart, with some great work from the forwards, and some immense handling, the ball goes across the field, to the reliable winger, Jack Drummey for his second try of the game converted by Bond.

Croydon now have the bit between their teeth and with a lovely backs move from the scrum out to the un-callused hands of the backs to, what can be described as a blow fish, Croydons other winger Alfie Jeffrey goes in for his first try. Converted by the soft foot of Jack Bond.

Croydon continue playing a flowing game, thanks to our Second row, Gareth Phillips, who also has returned from a long-time injury and has currently taken the mantle as Croydons 1XV oldest player and played 80 minutes, 3 accolades in one game! Croydon continue dominating all-round the park, thanks to props, Andrew Lyell and the cannonball, which is Chris Collcut, who by the law of physics, shouldn’t move as quick or sidestep, the way he does Croydons blindside flanker, Dan Tabatabai, putting extreme pressure on the opposition and when they came close, putting in some big hits

Croydon head for a line out, thrown in by Jonny Humphrey, off the lineout it falls this time to the beast, that is Croydons number 8, Billy Simons, who just back from injury, broke the defensive line, went through brushing off tackle after tackle and eventually offloading like an All Black out to the dependable Tom Defrates to crash over for the try, however as it’s Billy who is editing this for our clubs President William Simons. I won’t mention that I offloaded the ball to the opposition and Defrates ripped the ball back to score the try, because that would be silly.

Croydon now are well dug in and comfortable, the handling remains awesome and Alfie Jeffrey runs in his second of the game

woking1.jpg

Croydon is now camped in their 22, we comfortably won a line out, thrown in by hook, Stuart Matthews, Croydon was blessed to have two fantastic hookers on the day, as well as some very decent lineouts, they were a massive asset to have in the park. The pack dig in and squeeze for the maul, pushing Woking off, with strength added by blindside flank, Echez Udokwu. Defrates finishes for his second of the game, Jack Bond slots the conversion.

Woking retaliates, come back and get a try and convert.

With the great coach Louis coaching from the side, giving the lads a little bit of wisdom, the squad pulls themselves together. By this time, prop Andrew Lyell decides he’s not going to be out done and thinks himself as a centre again, gets the ball at the half way line smashes 2- 3 defenders over does a little sweet shimmy a little jumping step-side, wrongfoots , catches 2 more players of guard or in awe, as this is not natural for a prop, and gets a try, converted by skipper Jack Bond.

 Croydon disrupts and wins Wokings lineout, the ball finds itself out to finisher Josh Fearon, who pops out to the maverick Ben Drury to go over for his first try of the game.

It’s coming towards the end of the game and we now already have the contender of the year for the Jack Drummey Award, a beautiful handling move out to Drummey sees him over the line, forgets for a moment that he’s playing rugby, decides to celebrate his would’ve been 3rd try a tad early, and not grounding the ball, only to get smashed and knocking it on.

To finish what was an outstanding first game of the season, the forwards and the backs combined with some lovely handling and eventually seeing Sam Curtis, over the line. Croydon win the game 14-71.

 We’re afraid that we cannot decide who was the man of the match as all 18 players played really well and like a well drilled unit. Well done boys and a big shout out to coach Louis for making Croydon into a drilled unit again.

Result

Woking RFC 14 - 71 Croydon RFC

Try scorers:

Harry Warsop

Carl Shrimpton

Ben Dury

Andrew Lyell

Sam Curtis

Jack Drummey: 2 not 3

Alfie Jeffrey: 2

Tom Defrates: 2

Conversions: 

Jack bond: 8

 

Friendly: Park House RFC 2XV vs Croydon RFC

MATCH REPORT: PARK HOUSE 2XV vs CROYDON 30th Mar

After kicking the month of March off with the best 40 minutes of Croydon rugby in recent memory, the Poppies fell apart to Egham in the second half. Insult was added to stalwart Billy Simon’s shoulder injury when the team’s valuables bag accompanied him to the hospital.

Get better soon Billy!

Get better soon Billy!

Croydon then began the playoffs with spectacular, back to back victories made even more spectacular by not touching a ball. Opposition drop outs had gifted the Poppies a spot on finals day, but eager to play a bit of the beautiful game, Croydon arranged a fixture with Egham, Harlequins, Park House 2s.

Jeffrey giving 110% in defence

Jeffrey giving 110% in defence

A couple of injuries, dodgy excuses, and ringers meant Croydon’s new-look team had some gelling to do and, as the match began, it was quickly clear that the only thing beautiful about this game would be the sunny weather overhead. Plenty of knock-ons, errors and penalties meant neither team could get a foothold for the opening quarter. Yet smart kicking from Bond and Henderson began to pin Park House back in their half and the forwards capitalised with two tries from close distance.

Croydon’s defense swarms Park House

Croydon’s defense swarms Park House

Croydon pressed the advantage with Cousins (back in the pack from the right wing) and Dammers (still out on the right wing…politically) making valuable carries. Nevertheless, in front of their home crowd, Park House were not going down without a fight and despite some powerful defence from Yorkie, Killcoyne and Jeffrey, the hosts were allowed to sneak through for a try before half time.

Dammers…

Dammers…

Knocks…

Knocks…

On..

On..

Order seemed to be restored in the second half as a signature barrelling run from Lyell sucked in the opposition so the backs could put Smith #3 over in the corner. However another Park House resurgence saw the home team drive 80 metres and score twice to make the score 21-17. Memories of the almighty collapse to Egham echoed in the team talk under the posts, surely not again?

Golding does his best to convince the referee it wasn’t a try

Golding does his best to convince the referee it wasn’t a try

The game became all about the next score, and once again, there was nothing to separate the sides. The sustained effective recycling from Park was cancelled out by flashes of brilliance from Croydon, but never enough to get an upper hand. Finally catching the oppositon on the break, Captain Bond chased his own kick over the line and touched down to give Croydon the decisive points (and jump above Lyell in the individual try standings)

An unstoppable force meets an unpleasable object: There’s no getting past Steve

An unstoppable force meets an unpleasable object: There’s no getting past Steve

As the clock ran down, the Poppies shored up the victory with a debatable try (they all count) from your humble reporter which rounded off a rare hat trick and enjoyable team victory.

Special mentions to the travelling support as well as those who answered the call to give the squad some much needed depth. Golding and Smith stepped seamlessly into the back line while a valuable shift from Callum lending/breaking a hand in the pack kept the Park players at bay as well as saving me 80 minutes of propping!

Shrimpton still making that number 9 jersey his own

Shrimpton still making that number 9 jersey his own

Final Score: Park House 17 – 35 Croydon

Tries: Smith, Bond, Biggs (3)

Conversions: Bond (4), Yorkie

League: Croydon RFC vs Old Suttonians

MATCH REPORT: CROYDON vs OLD SUTTONIANS 9th Feb

With the season in full swing, three teams had separated themselves at the top pf the table and although Croydon were coming off the back of a win, Sutton represented a step up in class and a must win fixture if the Poppies still had aspirations of winning the league.

Croydon dominated the opening minutes kicking the ball (and the oppo) down the pitch, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. With Shrimpton commanding the number 9 position, an early penalty gave Bond the chance to put some points on the board and he sailed the ball through the posts. 

As the momentum swung away from the Poppies, Sutton showed their ability to offload out of the tackle, scoring two tries off consecutive plays. Croydon reacted and got behind the powerful running of "Big Bosh Man" Simons and "Bosh Baby" Jeffrey to allow Andrew "Bosh Spice" Lyell to charge over from five metres and reduce the deficit to just two points at the half.

The conditions took their toll in the second half and the muddy ball kept slipping out of Croydon’s possession. A dogged defensive effort was not enough and another try stretched the lead for the visitors. The Poppies responded again and with the returning  JC attacking with all the vigour of Bastille day and your humble narrator pinching the five points with all the vigour of try-steal day. 

Unfortunately, the Poppies were not able to push on to victory and despite an heroic last ditch tackle from Drummey and try saving interception from Jeffrey, Sutton had the last laugh and extended the scoreline to  cement their position at the top of the league.

Final Score: Croydon 17 – Old Suttonians 31

Tries: Lyell, Biggs

Conversions: Bond (2)

Penalties: Bond

MoM: Simons (Forwards), Shrimpton (Backs)

League: Haslemere RFC vs Croydon RFC

MATCH REPORT: HASLEMERE VS CROYDON 27th Jan

The Croydon team spent Saturday morning journeying from their concrete jungle into deepest, darkest (and greenest) Surrey to play bottom of the table Haslemere. After only fielding 11 players in the reverse fixture, the opposition had recruited and was better equipped this time with plenty of players on the field (and the bench). Croydon had also made changes with Big Willy trying his hand at match videography, Cousins testing out the wing and the prodigal son, Liam Bayford, returning at 9 after a two year exodus.

Matt Dammers scores from a lineout.

Croydon kicked off and were immediately on the front foot. With Griffiths and the Matthews brothers reliable as ever in the set piece, a 5 metre line out was driven over the line with Dammers turning Ministry of Defence into Mastery of Attack to touch down and claim the spoils.

Quick offloads out of the tackle almost ends in a try.

Croydon were in the ascendency, but not enough consistent play combined with too much shocking refereeing were preventing the Poppies from reaching their slick, graceful attacking potential and a couple of well worked moves finished agonisingly short of the try line. As a result, grace was thrown out the window in favour of brute force and the ferocious tackling from Shrimpton and Jeffrey was matched by crunching carries from Broadbent, Cousins and Lyell.

Lyell doubles Croydon’s lead

Moved into the pack for the game, and sensing an opportunity to cut down Bond’s lead in the try standings, Lyell took the rest of the first half into his own hands. With Bayford reacting quickly to a 5-metre penalty, the ball was shipped to Lyell who crashed in to score. A couple of frustrating penalties let Haslemere chip away at the lead but, much like Adrian at a buffet, Lyell was quickly back for more and smashed through for a second.  Half time score: 17-6.

Lyell and Broadbent gain yards to inch Croydon closer to the tryline

Frustration built in the second half both teams giving away unforced errors and penalties. The Poppies welcomed the return of Simons and his trademark handoffs while Bond tried to rally the team with some colossal kicks that travelled half way back to the Croydon as well as a monstrous bosh that could be heard from Croydon and left his tackler leaving the field thinking he was in Croydon. However repeated sloppy penalties allowed Haslemere to move up the field and gift them a try under the posts.

Lyell scores his second try

With Haslemere smothering open play and Croydon still agonisingly short of a bonus point, it was on the shoulders of your humble narrator to kill the game off with the rugby equivalent of goal hanging. First scooping up a misthrown line out on the try line, then stealing the ball on the try line at the end of a vintage Simons run, a brace of zero-effort tries were awarded by the ref for the combined movement, with ball in hand, of half a metre.

Jack Bond converts a try

With time winding down, Drummey still saw an opportunity to stake a claim for the 2019 Drummey award and ran half way across the field before throwing a forward pass out of bounds which was deliciously captured by media officer Simons. The final whistle blew and Croydon were pleased with much needed bonus point victory even if the performance did not reflect the team’s potential. Much like star players Shrimpton and Bayford having the cover their match pints with their socks before drinking, Croydon also made their tasks harder and less pleasant than they could have been.

Drummey with a wayward pass to end the match

Final Score: Haslemere 13 – Croydon 29

Tries: Dammers, Lyell (2), Biggs (2)

Conversions: Bond (2)

MoM: Shrimpton (Forwards), Bayford (Backs)

team photo.jpeg

League: Croydon RFC vs Reigate

MATCH REPORT: CROYDON VS REIGATE 12th Jan

Croydon’s matchup against Reigate fell on the weekend of the VP lunch, with vets turning up in droves, representing the whole arc of the club’s 60 year history, to reminisce about the glory days. After a starter of Croydon’s finest curry, the main course was to be served up by the current 1st XV who took to the field against Reigate.

Yorkie is congratulated by an elated fan for his Forward of the Match performance

Yorkie is congratulated by an elated fan for his Forward of the Match performance

After the kick off, the Poppies quickly set up camp in the opposition 22. Bond’s kicking was as clinical as Smutley and Defrates in the lineout, giving Croydon a strong platform to build on. Shrimpton and Killcoyne marshalled an unbreakable defensive line while sustained offensive pressure coordinated by W. Curtis and Henderson resulted in Humphrey barrelling over in the corner to break the deadlock. Conversion missed, Croydon led by 5.

With the offer of a warm clubhouse, plenty of ale and some vintage photographs proving a tempting alternative, some supporters had difficulty seeing the first half unfold. Unfortunately for those who did make it to the pitch, the referee was having similar difficulties. Despite it being national “kiss a ginger” day, the referee showed no love to our scrum half and some interesting calls cost Croydon several opportunities. Thankfully, Croydon’s front row were causing nightmares for the opposition pack. Matthews and Griffiths broke the spirits of the Reigate scrum before super-sub Benson made an immediate impact, effortlessly turning over a Reigate penalty run and shipping the ball to Bond to score in the corner and double his tally of missed conversions for the game.

The success enjoyed by the forwards was shared by the backs, with Gissing, S. Curtis, and Drummey putting the gas on their opposite numbers at will. The Poppies kept giving up penalties but Reigate couldn’t capitalise and with the half winding down, Drummey stumbled round the defence and over the molehills to touch down nearer the post, allowing Bond to finally make a conversion and regain some face. Half time: Croydon 17 – Reigate 0.

Lyell’s was fully committed to playing in the backs after being selected at 12

Lyell’s was fully committed to playing in the backs after being selected at 12

Croydon pressed on in the second half. Dammers and Cousins refreshed the pack and Reigate buckled under the pressure. Lyell did his best impression of a back, dancing up to the line and stretching over for a bonus point try before snatching up an interception to supply captain Bond with a chance to add to both his own try tally and missed conversion count for the day.

Not finished with the five tries, and cheered by a massive showing of vets, the 2019 “Wanderers” pushed forward. Just inside the opposition 22, Humphrey charged towards the line. Reigate threw everything they had at the Yorkshireman - missed tackles, high tackles and slide tackles - but nothing could break the flanker’s stride and a sixth try was awarded in the corner (much to the disappointment of Bond’s boot).

Cousins’ actions were deemed an ‘elf and safety risk by the referee

Cousins’ actions were deemed an ‘elf and safety risk by the referee

The final quarter of the match slowed and while Yorkie returned for a late cameo in search of his hat-trick, Croydon’s focus became maintaining a clean sheet against a Reigate team who simply refused to quit. However, in the final minutes, Cousins switched his signature energetic “Duracell battery” display, for an unfortunate display of “assault and battery” in front of the ref. Reigate got a penalty and took full advantage, with a try from a cross field kick to salvage some pride from the encounter and finish the match 34 – 7.

Final Score: Croydon 37 – Reigate 7

Tries: Humphrey (2), Bond (2), Drummey, Lyell

Conversions: Bond (2)

MoM: Humphrey (Forwards), W. Curtis (Backs)

Honourable mentions must go to the vets who turned out in force to support the team. As well as keeping tight lipped and refraining from giving us too much stick for the performance, the returners also managed to raise a valuable contribution toward the much needed shower refurbishment. Being a relative newcomer to the club, it was humbling to see the rich history of the Wanderers packing out the clubhouse and great to share a drink with some of the founding members of ’56 and everybody in between who built the club into what it is today.

Ewan Kellas and the 1956 Wanderers

Ewan Kellas and the 1956 Wanderers

League: Croydon RFC vs Wandsworthians RFC

MATCH REPORT: CROYDON VS WANDSWORTHIANS 6th Oct

Croydon entered the third week of Surrey 4 fixtures with a set of results more random than the contents of Broadbent’s dirty pint. Shipping 40+ points to league favourites Egham was followed by some fancy new shirts, a walkover win against Horley, and a surprise upset victory against London Media. A success against the visiting Wandsworth could therefore stabilise things and start a winning run.

As the game kicked off, two things quickly became clear:

1)      Croydon looked the better drilled, stronger team

2)      There was no way Ginge was lasting 80 mins in this torrential drizzle

Sensing his time on the field was limited, the diminutive scrum half wasted no time in taking control of the game. On the back of Croydon’s complete dominance over the sent piece, Ginge darted through a confused defence and gave the Poppies a 7-0 lead.

Wandsworth crumble under the pressure of Croydon’s pack

Wandsworth crumble under the pressure of Croydon’s pack

Clearly in the ascendancy despite the challenging conditions, the home team ramped up the pressure and set up camp in the opposition half. Drummey could have doubled the lead after finding himself with an open run in from 20 meters out but opted to trade away the 5 points on the scoreboard a for a crisp, refreshing Drummey pint.

Nevertheless, more tries were on their way. Slick back play with smart handling from Gleig and Henderson combined with some astute kicking from Drury gifted Bond an open lane to slide under the posts. Likewise, the Matthews-dominated forwards owned the set pieces through a powerful core of A Matthews, S Matthews, G Matthews and Matthew D. The pack forced a try of their own with Matthew I boshing over from 5 meters out to complete the half with a healthy 21-0 scoreline. The only negative to a great half was Glenn having to leave the game early with a lump or his head so big it needed its own team shirt. Lyell was pulled in as cover on the flank as his career inches ever closer to the front row.

Taking the positives with the Egg-itives

Taking the positives with the Egg-itives

Some inspiring half-time words from Defrates were immediately washed away by the rain and Wandsworth ran in a soft try to start the second half. Ginge left the field to be thawed out but Croydon answered back, Irvine switching to the blind side and finding Jeffrey who swooped in under the posts to secure the bonus point and gift another straightforward conversion to Bond.

As the game became scrappier, solid defence from Broadbent, Shrimpton, and Lyell (definitely a forward) kept Wandsworth at bay but tired legs and slippery conditions meant the home team could not regain the upper hand. Colcutt entered the fray to maintain Croydon’s grip on the scrum while Kilcoyne tried to emulate Glenn’s forehead fashion with an ambitious, face-first, chop-tackle.

On Target: Bond slots another conversion

On Target: Bond slots another conversion

With the clock winding down, Croydon broke through again and Drummey finally got on the scoresheet. Jeffrey then doubled his tally, benefitting from a neat chip to the corner, some ambiguously painted pitch lines, and an Oscar-winning “definitely not out of bounds” try celebration which was enough to convince the ref.  With Croydon raining tries, Bond took full advantage from the kicking practice, impressively slotting conversions from either sideline.

Wandsworth rallied in the final minutes to score a second try but Croydon could take plenty of positives from a comfortable win, moving them up the league table to third. Very hard to pick out individual performances as the whole team raised their game and should be proud of a well-earned victory.

Final Score: Croydon 42 – Wandsworth 10

Tries: Curtis, Bond, Irvine, Jeffrey (2), Drummey

Conversions: Bond (6)

Open run-ins dropped: Drummey

 

MoM: S Matthews (Forwards), Henderson (Backs)

 

Honourable Mentions:

McCallister: Mick saw out the last days of his thirties by trying to rewrite the rulebook and secure the coveted Drummey pint a few days before the match. Rather than sliding over the tryline, Mick chose to slide into the club’s DMs with some unsolicited details of what he gets up to in the shower. Unfortunately, the second team stalwart was unavailable for comment as “his hands were Thai’d”. #fourtyandnaughty

Pre-Season: Croydon RFC vs London Media RFC

Croydon RFC VS London Media RFC

MATCH REPORT: CROYDON VS LONDON MEDIA 1st Sep

After an off-season full of new faces, gardening, the odd iNaga curry and a resolute focus on rebuilding, the Poppies were finally freed from the delicate restrictions of summer touch, ready return to proper rugby and get a first look at how far the revival project was progressing.

The weather - the spectacular summer had returned with a vengeance and the sun was out in full force.

The opposition - A last minute switch meant London media had the pleasure of travelling to Addington. One of Croydon’s bogey teams last season despite similarity of squads, the media boys (all 26 of them) would be a perfect acid test.

Media were out of the traps straight away and ran in an early try. Before Croydon had even realised the match had started they found themselves down 0-7, but fell back on their game plan; simple rugby played with intensity. Led by the centre pairing of Yorkie and captain Lyell, The Poppies ramped up the pressure and started winning penalty after penalty. Unfortunately, confusion in the line out and the two words no forward of a certain shape wants to hear, “uncontested scrums”, meant it was difficult to for the home team to capitalise.

In the second quarter, Croydon threw tactical kicking out the window and went back to the trusty tap and go. Strong phase play with solid contributions from Glenn, Cousins and Richardson gained valuable metres and built a platform for Simons to bulldoze over from close range, levelling the score and fulfilling his pre-match promise of a try in honour of Defrates (or was it Gissing?). The only blemish on a positive quarter was Yorkie’s injury meaning Dammers joined Shrimpton in the club of forwards forced to play in the backs.

Quarter three was just as evenly fought. Media continued to rotate their massive squad onto the field but despite fresh legs they couldn’t find a final pass. One of Croydon’s prodigal sons returning from university, Kareem, and debutant Mike both made important attacking carries while Simons gave his opposite number plenty of extra attention in defence. Against a run of sustained media pressure, Henderson latched onto a misplaced pass to jog in a try under the posts and give Croydon the lead for the first time in the match. 

Unfortunately, at the start of the final quarter, the blistering heat and relentless pace of the Media squad finally broke through Croydon’s resolute defending to score three time to gain a crucial 12 point lead going into the home stretch. Rather than bow down and admit defeat, the Poppies mustered up one final push. Yorkie rejoined the fray with one leg, Davenport dump tackled anyone with a media shirt, and the opposition were on the back foot. With a monstrous chase after a deep kick, Jeffrey was fingertips away from his first try of the season but a vicious clothesline wiped out both attacker and defender, leaving Drummey to play the advantage and dot the loose ball down himself. A final lost line out signalled the end of the match and while the result wasn’t as glorious as the conditions, there were plenty of positives to take forward.

Final score: Croydon 19 - Media 24

Tries: Simons, Henderson, Drummey

Conversions: Henderson (2)

 

Special mentions

Shrimpton

A lack of backs meant the smallest forward was nominated to fill in at scrum half. Did himself no harm with a composed display and marshalling the link between the pack and the back line. Capped off his commitment to the role by even downing his ‘man of the match’ pint like a back! A new look for the defensive stalwart? Maybe so, if the #shrimpfor9 movement is anything to go by.

 

Front row

It’s impressive what a front row are capable of when they’re not having their souls crushed out of them in the scrum. Uncontested scrums proved a blessing in disguise and produced the most movement ever seen from the collective. highlights being:

  • Adrian galloping around with the ball in one hand looking for a kiwi-esque offload.

  • Steve’s one man chip and chase reminiscent of his 85/86 season.

  • Smuts solo counter rucks regaining valuable possession.

  • Davenport and ‘that’ dump tackle.

 

Henderson

Conducting traffic at fly half, Jake kept everyone singing from the same hymn sheet and did well to make sure Croydon focused on their game plan. A solid performance in terms of decision making was rewarded by taking the customary unopposed-five-metre-run-in try usually reserved for Lyell.

 

Walker/Bond

Whilst neither were available in person, they contributed through social media and attempted to psych the team up for the game with a black and white montage of one of Jack’s topless weights sessions. Whilst the actual impact of the video on the match outcome remains inconclusive, rumours are still circulating that Adrian’s acrobatic runs were a homage to captain Bond, with mobile prop volunteering his own services for the next topless video.

Croydon RFC VS Horley RFC

Match Report: Croydon vs Horley 14th April


Croydon turned up to play the last league game of the season, pressure off, music playing and the only thing brighter than the weather being CJ’s choice of shorts. Everyone wanted to finish the season strongly and a huge amount support on the sidelines felt like having an extra player on the pitch. At the opening kick-off, Horley took the game to Croydon. A powerful run through the back line in their opening play looked a certain try but a miraculous last gasp defence from Shrimps and Henderson kept the scores level.

Despite Croydon continuing to hold off the opposition attack, the referee was keen to see the deadlock broken and rewrote the rule book to gift Horley a try. However, much like the Grand National, the Poppies knew that there was plenty more to obstacles to jump and the early frontrunner never wins. Answering straight back, Croydon began throwing themselves, and each other, at the opposition. Inches short of the line, Billy ‘human wrecking ball’ Simons launched Jack ‘human cannonball’ Drummy into the air and over the line to level the game and earn his seventh consecutive “Drummy pint” (it’s as if they were made for him!)

The sunny weather was bringing out free flowing, sevens-style rugby, with Gissing, Dammers and even Broadbent getting into the mood with jinking runs and neat offloads. Croydon were also finding success in the lineout; Griffiths, Defrates, and Yorkie were orchestrating the rolling maul to great effect, bulldozing down the pitch at a canter. Dominant field position was capitalised on by Bond, who slotted two penalties and try of his own to widen the home team’s lead. 

Croydon ended the half up 18-10 and in spirits that even the questionable refereeing couldn’t dampen. Not wanting to lose the advantage, the Poppies (and Cousins) came out swinging in the second half. More pressure from the backs marshalled by Henderson and Hawk resulted in a slick line break from Lyell to crash over for another Croydon try under the posts. 

As Horley continued to threaten, Bond took it upon himself to break opposition spirits “just like he breaks opposition ribs”. Tactical kicking pinned Horley back and another penalty was slotted before a drop goal attempt got “caught on his shoelaces” just as he “lost his footing” and hopelessly rolled along the floor and into touch. Thankfully, Smith did not suffer from the same shocking decision making when choosing to tap-and-go with a five metre penalty. Taking advantage of Horley disorganisation and very long limbs, CJ stretched (and stretched) and scored to secure a try bonus point for the Poppies.

With the home straight in sight, Croydon fought close out the victory. Fresh defence was brought on in Tony and Ronnie to bravely battle wave after wave of wave of Horley attack. Drowning under the relentless waves never a worry, partially thanks to Alfie wearing his best Baywatch attire on the sidelines but also due to the overwhelming points gap Croydon had created. The final whistle blew and Croydon celebrated a deserved victory with pizza and beer.

Final Score Croydon 35 - 22 Horley

Tries: Drummy, Bond, Lyell, Smith

Conversions: Bond (2) 

Penalties: Bond (3)

Forward/Back of the match

Hawk

A superb addition to the back line options, grew into the game and was a menace in defence shutting down Horley running options. With his pace and support running, I can’t see many teams keeping Hawk off the scoresheet next season.
 
Griffiths

The veteran prop put in another resolute performance and martialled the set piece to great effect. Added to the post-match celebrations by declaring himself available for one more season “for the road.”

Match Report: Matt Biggs
 

League: Old Ruts RFC Vs Croydon RFC

Bright conditions and the return of some old faces added some positivity for Croydon’s visit to Old Rutlishians. A team reshuffle during the warm up resulted in Walker drawing the short straw and filling in at outside centre but another well attended training session had instilled some new lessons for the whole team to put into practice. More encouragement was generated by the 2nd XV being able to field a side against Warlingham, helping add more strength in depth to the squad.

Croydon knew exactly what to expect from a tough previous fixture against Ruts – a team pushing for promotion with the most dangerous back line in the league. Unfortunately, simply being aware of these strengths was not enough to stop them. Croydon were caught cold by the home team’s quick hands and quicker feet, conceding several early tries in the process.

The Poppies struggled for a foothold in a frustrating first half. The powerful carrying of Humphrey and Gleig was being successfully rucked and secured by Dammers and Shrimpton. However, as soon as Ruts got a sniff of the ball it ended up beneath Croydon’s posts.

With two minutes to go, Croydon finally started to show signs of what they were capable of and turned over a kick-off to work their way up the pitch. A five metre lineout was illegally spoiled by Ruts and resulted in a sin bin for the opposition. With the Poppies unsure of how to make the most of the following penalty, Lyell took initiative and, in a solo effort, bulldozed through three Ruts players and over the tryline. The half time whistle blew and despite a one-sided scoreline, Croydon rallied behind Lyell’s late try.

In the second half, reliability in the set piece was much welcomed, where Matthews and Griffiths were immovable in the scrum while Defrates dished out successful lineouts like Tom Brady in his prime. Curtis and Bond’s creative distribution was getting recycled and the team were moving forward. A rare Ruts error from a ruck was punished by your humble narrator who escaped with the ball and was gifted a wide open run-in to the posts.

Old Ruts answered back but the match was now much more competitive than in the first half. Billy’s timely message to up the aggression was being received, from Curtis and Shrimpton driving the ball past the gain line, to Cousins and both Smiths hitting everything in defence, to Bond furiously attacking the conversion frame, smashing kicks against both the upright and the crossbar.

In attack, Croydon mirrored the conditions of the changing room, remaining very, very tight. Benefitting from a couple of decisions against Ruts, Bond was able to kick into dangerous territory and lineout maestro Griffiths rolled back the years to roll over two mauls in quick succession, the latter guaranteeing a bonus point for tries scored.

With the clock winding down, there was still time for some unprecedented flair from the backs. Camped inside Ruts’ 22, Bond aimed a chip over the line for Drummey to latch onto in the corner, fighting of competition and breaking over the line to score. Jack’s final effort meant Croydon walked off the pitch with a 24-17 second half victory.

While the overall result wasn’t as favourable, the Poppies could take several positive lessons from the match. Moreover, a first ever try bonus of point showed real attacking promise from the team and a precious point that may make all the difference come the end of the season.

Final Score: Old Rutlishians 64 – 31 Croydon

Tries: Lyell, Biggs, Griffiths (2), Drummey

Conversions: Bond (3)

Notable Mentions:

Gleig: A massive positive to see Sam return to the starting lineup after a lengthy absence, his impact was both immediate and immense. Playing in both the forwards and backs he was seemingly everywhere on the pitch, winning lineouts, creating attacking chances and making a nuisance of himself in defence like a metaphorical (and literal) punch to the balls.

Curtis: Another returning face with a big performance, Ginge shored up the distribution channels. Linking well with Bond and the forwards, he helped transform Croydon’s phase play into a much more dangerous force. Defensively solid, he also made try saving tackles on more than one occasion.

Griffiths: Steve has been central to the lineout, creating moves in training and calling plays in the game. His impact had been instrumental in helping the lineout to become a great attacking platform for the team and this was well demonstrated throughout the match. He played a critical role the success of the set pieces and scored an unexpected but well-deserved brace albeit using Defrates as a human shield.

Lyell: Two tries in two matches, Lyell’s powerful running is a key weapon within the Poppies back line. A destructive force with the ball in hand, he always managed to break the gain line and push the team in the right direction. Scored at a critical moment, completing an individual effort to open Croydon’s account and bring some self-belief to the team, which was built on in the second half.

Surrey Cup Croydon RFC Vs Reigate RFC

Match Report – Croydon Vs Reigate

The first game of 2018 was a chance to blow away the Christmas cobwebs and start fresh after a difficult year. From huge numbers at training despite torrential rain, to a massive contingent of supporters despite Baltic temperatures, the New Year buzz was widespread. Billy’s Aussie flu man cold meant the captain’s armband was given to Yorkie, while Craig Walker’s return from injury to the starting lineup was (allegedly) long awaited and much anticipated by all.

The pack lined up, desperate to show off their newly honed and well-oiled kick reception drills from training but had to wait as Reigate couldn’t kick ten metres. In the following scrum, the solid front row of Griffiths, A. Matthews and S. Matthews put down an early marker, outsizing their opponents and letting them know it would be a long 80 minutes.

Building on early consistency in the set piece and some aggressive ‘Northern’ defending, Croydon set up camp in the opposing half. Frustratingly, the team couldn’t get over the try line but the sustained pressure won a penalty under the posts for Bond to put the Poppies 3-0 up. With powerful runs from Curtis and Drummy combined with solid distribution from Smith and Bond, Croydon knew tries would follow. The only question was who the first scorer of 2018 would be…needless to say, Dammers had the last laugh. Running a piercing supporting line, he sliced through the Reigate defence and touched down under near the posts to cries of “Aha!”

Croydon seemed to be getting into their stride with Shrimpton and Defrates finding repeated success at the break down. From a pile up on the try line, the ball was shipped to Humphrey who crashed over from close range, giving Bond another straightforward conversion. More tries appeared ready for the taking but some Christmas rust and a disagreement with the referee over the finer details of the latest scrummaging laws meant the Poppies were unable to increase their lead and had to settle for finishing the half with the score at 17-0.

After some positive, constructive encouragement from Griffiths, Croydon began the second half fired up. Henderson capitalised on a handling error, stealing the ball from the opposition and sprinting half the pitch to score. Unfortunately, his dazzling run broke his own hamstring as well as Reigate’s spirit. Thankfully, Captain Humphrey was on call to step in for the injured centre and even manage his own steal and 40 metre dash though lacking Jake’s pace and finish.

With complacency setting in from the Poppies, Reigate sensed an opportunity. The bench was emptied with Harvell and Smith adding strength and pace going forward while Cousins, Broadbent and Ware all put in powerful defensive contributions. Yet despite edging the battle in the loose, Croydon lost their grip over the set piece. Turnovers at lineouts and scrums resulted in Reigate walking a 5 metre scrum over the line to prevent a shutout.

Croydon kept pressing for tries but sloppy errors meant opportunities continued to be wasted. With the clock winding down, more line out confusion gave Reigate a penalty on their own ten metre and one final attack. However, Lyell had different ideas and snatched away their last push with an interception to dot down under the posts. The final whistle blew and celebratory music rang around the changing room as the Poppies’ 2018 unbeaten run remained intact.

Final Score Croydon 31 – Reigate 7

Tries: Dammers, Humphrey, Henderson, Lyell

Conversions: Bond (4)

Penalties: Bond

Honourable mentions:

Yorkie: The captain led by example making strong runs with ball in hand and defending like a league player. Fired the team up when needed, scored a deserved try and, with a bit/lot more gas, could have had a second.

Dammers: Demonstrated his learning from training by catching kick offs like Billy catches colds. A constant presence in defence and support. Huge effort was rewarded with a try.

Drummy: The back of the match was one of the few players on the team who can boast being able to run the length of the pitch faster than he can down a pint. A menace to the opposition back line, pressuring his opposite number and refusing to let Reigate play any wide options. Elusive in attack and unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.

Curtis: A composed performance at full back. Great counter running meant Croydon were rarely under pressure when the ball was kicked deep. Ran back and smothered the ball to save what seemed a certain try after an opposition charge down. Attacking runs built solid platforms which led to tries.

Editor's note: Our forward of the match was a new addition to the squad in Matt 'From 4th Floor' Biggs. Matt is quickly proving himself invaluable in the second row and was instrumental in several key turnovers and always a willing ball carrier. He's also too modest to mention himself. 

Match report – Matt Biggs