Shelford give leaders Guernsey a run for their money
Hosts edged out in good encounter at the Davey Field
Shelford gave leaders Guernsey a scare only to suffer a narrow 22-21 defeat in a terrific game in London & SE Premier Division.
The Channel Islanders have established an 11-point lead at the top of the division and it was easy to see why.
They were very fluid in possession, with quick hands along the line, and had a solid scrum that did not take any prisoners.
In contrast, it has been a difficult season for Shelford as they have strived to achieve any sort of consistency.
At the Davey Field, however, you could not tell the difference in the league standings between the teams in an extremely close encounter.
It was a gruelling game for both defences with huge hits being put in to thwart their rivals, and it is was particularly impressive from Shelford, who left the top points scorers in the league very few opportunities to cross the gain line.
Anthony Armstrong appeared to be the chief threat for Guernsey, but what the hosts were doing was restricting most clean ball to the wing.
They were up in the faces of the visitors as well, with Teddy Hepworth, Miles Anderson and Otunuku Pauta particularly to the fore with their first-up tackles and then with their work at the breakdown.
It was a full-team effort from Shelford though, with the pack putting in some hard yards to stop their powerful opponents.
It did not stop there as the thick claret line fanned out across the pitch to repel Guernsey, with Grant Anderson and Anzelo Tuitavuki particularly impressive in the centres.
Tuitavuki took the sponsors’ man-of-the-match prize and probably deservedly so, as his defensive efforts were matched by giving Shelford an outlet on the front foot as well.
As it was, two second-half minutes took the game away from Shelford, and that was as much about the quality of Guernsey.
In the early stages of the match, it was Shelford that had the ascendancy, with Josh Simmons narrowly unable to land a penalty.
It was the visitors that broke the deadlock though, as a lovely flowing move along the long sucked in the numbers from Shelford to allow Armstrong to race in out wide to touch down.
Guernsey had shown what they were capable of doing once they strung the passes together, but they were getting caught in a trap of looking for contact which was giving Shelford the opportunity to reset their defence.
At the end of the first half, a succession of phases led to Layton Batiste being sin-binned for a technical offence on his line, and from the following play, Simmons was able to twist round in the tackle to ground the ball, and he then converted his own try.
It meant Shelford headed into half time 7-5 in front, but Guernsey made a dominant start to the second period.
After a series of pick and gos near the line, Cameron Craine eventually reached out to touch down to make it 10-7 to Guernsey.
The crucial spell came in the 58th minute as a flowing move across the line ended with a high tackle in the corner just as the ball seemed about to be grounded, and referee Greg Douglas awarded a penalty try.
From the kick off, Guernsey returned the ball with aplomb and they moved the ball wide right to where they had created an overlap, and Blair Campbell touched down to make it 22-7, three scores ahead of Shelford.
The hosts were not done though, and they were able to move the Guernsey defence in the 67th minute for Atelea Moa to go round the outside to touch down, with Simmons converting.
Then, in the 75th minute, Grant Anderson produced some good skill in his own 22 to break clear, and after kicking on and then hacking the ball underneath the posts, Tuitavuki touched down, with Simmons’ conversion making it 22-21.
Unfortunately for Shelford though, they were just unable to create that one more final chance to try to trouble the scoreboard, but they can take pride in their performance having run the leaders so close.
Shelford: Gillick; Hrbek, Tuitavuki, G Anderson, Moa; Simmons, Harvey; M Anderson, Gardner, Boyce, Hepworth, Pauta, Mongston, Beswick, Lea.
Replacements: Jones, Dunnett, Baker.
Guernsey: Whitehead; Campbell, Jones, Brown, Armstrong; Thomas, Barnes; Steventon, Currie, Batiste, Martin, Merrien, Hill, Le Cocq, Horrocks.
Replacements: Craine, Batiste, Brown.
Referee: Greg Douglas.
Scorers: 23min Armstrong try (0-5), 40+8 Simmons try – Simmons con (7-5), 50 Craine try (7-10), 58 penalty try (7-17), 60 Campbell try (7-22), 67 Moa try – Simmons con (14-22), 75 Tuitavuki try – Simmons con (21-22).
Sin bin: Guernsey – L Batiste (technical offence, 40+7).