Medway travelled to Essex on Saturday to take on rivals Chingford in their final game of the season looking to win promotion for the second successive season. In wet and less than ideal underfoot conditions the game kicked off in front of a large crowd with both sides well supported. It was Chingford with all the early pressure. That pressure soon told when Medway were penalised for an offence at the breakdown and the resultant penalty kick put the home side up 3-0. From the kick off Medway recovered the ball and attacked Chingford however their defence was rock solid. Despite retaining possession Medway were unable to break the home defence. Successive penalties committed by Chingford on 15 minutes however gave Dan Harvey the chance to level the scores and he did. 3-3. Harvey had another long range attempt to put Medway ahead but this just missed the upright. The rest of the first half was dominated by the Chingford team. Through their heavier forwards and well organised defence they strangled the Medway team of field position and space to play in. On 24 minutes Chingford drove for the Medway line once more although initially held up over the line following consultation with the Assistant Referee Chingford were awarded the opening try out wide. The conversion was missed to make the score 8-3. Chingford’s stranglehold on the game continued as Medway were unable to clear their lines and the powerful Chingford pack controlled the ball well with their pick and drives and short target carries. From a scrum deep in their 22m Medway looked to play out but turned the ball over at the breakdown allowing Chingford a simple unconverted try out wide. Chingford were 13-3 to the good and dominating the game. That domination of the first half was complete when Medway were penalised under their own posts for a scrummage offence. Chingford kicked the penalty and Medway went into half time 16-3 down.
Medway came out for the second half looking to up the tempo and try to move the big home pack around. Playing the higher tempo saw Medway create chances. A short range scrummage and subsequent attacks saw the home side defending solidly but nonetheless under pressure. On 54 minutes another penalty conceded by Chingford allowed Medway to kick for the corner. Easton won the ball in the air and Beaumont and Sandison combined for Sandison to touch down in the corner. The Medway joy was short lived though as the Assistant Referee intervened once more to say that a foot had touched the line prior to the touchdown. It was Medway creating all the pressure now and with Hawkins stealing the Chingford ball at the line out Medway were once more on the front foot pressuring Chingford. In the 58th minute Medway were awarded a scrum 5 metres out. The Medway front five forwards were now starting to get on top of their home counterparts. Medway drove for the line. Stubbington controlling the ball well was about to score when the home side infringed. Medway opted for the scrum once more and this time when Chingford illegally attempted to prevent the inevitable score by Stubbington the referee went under the posts and awarded Medway the penalty try. 16-10. Medway on the front foot then became architects of their ultimate downfall when they failed to deal with a speculative high ball in 64th minute. The bounce was friendly for Chingford and they seized their chance and were clinical in scoring out wide and stretch their lead to 21-10 which was against the run of play at that time. Medway came back though and continued the press the home side with their phase play. On 77 minutes with time running out an excellent attack saw Luke Burns drive close to the home posts. The breakdown was won and the ball moved wide for Henry Hall to score in the corner. Harvey kicked the conversion from the touchline to narrow the score to 21-17. Any hope Medway had of producing the last minute shock went when not for the first time they made an error from the home sides kick off. Chingford were not going to give the ball back now and they successfully and expertly retained possession to run the clock down and seal promotion.
Chingford were worthy victors by 21-17. The young Medway team showed their character and resilience to come back in the way they did but will learn from this experience and be a better side for it. Despite not winning promotion Medway have still had a great season and will only improve and be better for that experience. Winning Division 2 last season and finishing runners up in Division 1 this season is testament to that improvement. They have entertained their supporters all season with the free flowing brand of rugby. On the day Chingford were just that bit stronger overall and are to be congratulated in achieving promotion. The game was played in an excellent spirit and both sets of supporters can be proud of their teams.