After 26 league games in London North 1, Tring Rangers had one last game to play as they hosted Guildford Rugby
Tring Rangers had earned themselves a play-off promotion decider against the second placed finisher in the London South 1 league.
By virtue of their higher number of league points, Tring Rugby had the home advantage and would be defending a 7 month unbeaten home run.
With the play off venue decided by which team had lost the least games throughout the season Tring hosted Guildford to settle who had the right to play in National 3 next season. Tring being runners up of London 1 North and finishing just one point behind league winners Amersham & Chesham despite Tring, winning more games in the season. The scene was set for a game with everything to play for and as would be expected the match had attracted a substantial Tring home crowd and traveling Guildford supporters.
Guildford kicked off the game in front of a large crowd of enthusiastic Tring home and visiting supporters with Tring making penetrating runs into the Guildford half who applied pressure through a very large pack in their own half. After a period of early pressure from Guildford, Tring Rangers began to get into their game and eight minutes into the game opened their account with a well worked try. Playing a prolonged advantage after a Guildford infringement the hosts kept the ball available through the phases and eventually the pressure told. The Guildford defensive wall cracked as the ball was turned back inside allowing Tring captain Nick Radley to crash over. A well worked try with the conversion added. 7-0.
Guildford drove back hard into the Tring defense and were rewarded for their pressure in the 18th minute with a try. From a 5 metre scrum the initial pick and go was held by the defensive wall but a second phase low drive from the Guildford prop forward was enough to grab the try and added the conversion to level the scores at 7-7.
The game continued at a tremendous pace as both teams tested each other to the full. The defensive tackling from Tring was first rate and in possession Tommy Newts, Beany, Harry and Theo presented challenges every time with ball in hand. Guildford kept the pressure on Tring but were unable to turn that into points as the defiant Tring defence, scrambled at times, but held firm. On the 30th minute the referee gave a yellow card to Mike March allegedly for collapsing a maul whilst deep into the home 22. Harsh I thought but there you go. Kicking for the corner Guildford caught and drove, the referee deeming the ball not properly grounded allowing Tring to rebuild coming back into the game and had an opportunity to regain the lead after a scrum penalty but the conversion was missed.
Right on the point of half time Tring went back ahead with a brilliantly worked try. Guildford conceding a penalty in their 22 and with time up most thought that the penalty would be kicked but the effervescent Tommy Newton took quick ball, moving the ball to the Tring wing Tom Ward, who although tackled was able to present the ball for quick recycling. Superfast handling away from the point of contact again from Tommy Newts and Tring were over the line as Guildford were caught napping, stunned by Trings persistent athletic attacking style. Conversion made, the Tring crowd were happy and baying for more. Half Time.
This was an excellent game of rugby between two very good teams and all to play for in the second half with Guildford drawing blood first. Playing through the phases and with their pack weight advantage, Guildford drove hard at the Tring defence at pace on an inside ball to burst through three tackles to score. The kick converted bringing the score all level again at 14-14.
Two penalties to Guildford as their scrummage dominance came to the fore which did not help Tring, but then Guildford came under immense pressure as the Guildford flanker was shown a yellow card. The referee doing a fair job as tension caused discipline to fray. Guildford stole the line out ball through their captain but moments later Tring made their pressure count as our flanker George Hayes made a terrific individual maverick run through the heart of the Guildford defence but was closed down before being able to off load. Guildford held out that attack but where penned deep into their 22 and on the 61st minute the home pressure finally counted as Tring scored again through the good work of fly half Beany. With the conversion added the home advantage now stood at 21-14.
Buoyed by the score line advantage, Tring kept Guildford penned into their half but were unable to find the fervor to seal the game and it was Guildford who pulled the score back to 21-19 to make for a tense last five minutes. From the scrum near the half way line the Guildford 8 fed their scrum half. Seeing a slight gap he hit the gas and released into space on the 10 metre line. An outstanding last minute Tring tackle stopped the ball inches from the line but he was not held and the subsequent forward drive was deemed enough by the referee and after consultation with his touch judge awarded the try. Conversion missed.
From the kick off, a smart box kick from Guildford gained territory in the Tring half but home throw in. A misfiring lineout from Tring gave Guildford possession and they launched a furious assault on the Tring line. The Guildford forwards crashed into the Tring defence and recycled the ball, with the Guildford captain driving to the line and allegedly just got the ball on the whitewash. Initially the referee signaled held up, then after being consulted by the touch judge, the try was awarded much to the dismay of Tring and our supporters. The try was converted and with a few minutes of the game remaining Guildford were in the lead for the first time.
The game restarted with Tring losing possession and Guildford were able to use up the remaining time with a few pick and drives before kicking the ball deep into touch and were over the moon as the referee blew the final whistle.
Both teams received a rapturously deserved salutation from the 700 or so crowd who had been entertained with an absolutely excellent and exciting game of rugby. Sadly it wasn’t to be Tring’s day, but our Rangers can hold their heads high.
"While the RFU headlines might be about us losing a play-off final, it is only right that in Tring Ranger Camaraderie style we supporters all praise the mighty Tring boys for their plucky and courageous performance. Not just in this play off game, but all season. That also meaning the massive amount of work off the pitch by our coaching and support staff.
Tring are not in the habit of looking for excuses or attributing blame. We started well and had a game plan that suited the pitch and playing conditions. The lads had to dig in deep many times and were very gutsy to get ourselves back in the game and I did think we were good enough to win the game.
Ultimately, I believe Guildford won because of their change of play in the second half with a solid set piece and powerful drive. It was tough seeing the disappointment on our players' faces, because it demonstrated how much defeat in a must win game meant to all the players, coaching staff and supporters. We have to accept the result and will no doubt emerge refreshed and rested, ready for this seasons challenges.
Whatever the outcome, We Tring supporters are all immensely proud of the massive Tring Rangers team performance and know they gave 100% in this game and as the new season beckons after a well-earned Summer break, then we will all be back for what will no doubt be a massive new, fresh season’s challenge"…….`Come on you Mighty Tring’
Rah Rah Rah
Simon, The Mann
Tring RUFC VP’s.