CRANLEIGH ENJOY THE SPOILS AS MET DELIVER TOP QUALITY
By Neil SINCLAIR
League leaders earn bonus point win as Met put on best performance of the season
A beautiful October afternoon saw the Met travel to league leaders Cranleigh, in Surrey's most southerly corner writes Gilbert Ball. Unbeaten Cranleigh had staged a club lunch so there was a large crowd for a Surrey Two game in spite of the rival attraction of European Champions Cup matches on TV. And they had certainly made the right choice as a cracking game unfolded.
With the sun blazing down onto one side of the pitch, Cranleigh elected to use it in the first half . Nevertheless, smarting from a disappointing defeat last time out, the Met started well. The forwards were making the hard yards and rucking dynamically, creating the space for the backs to stretch their legs and move the ball wide. But Cranleigh have had a formidable start to the season, and they are well capable of absorbing early pressure; their success, like so many good teams, is based on solid defence. So it didn't really require the help of some inexact refereeing to relieve the pressure on the home team's try line. A cross-kick by Connelly appeared to be knocked-on as Cranleigh's winger fielded the ball but the referee let play continue and then penalised the Met for going off their feet at the ensuing ruck. As Met players challenged the decision, Cranleigh took a quick tap behind the referee and charged up field, running in an easy try much to the delight of the home support. A simple conversion followed and the Met had to rebuild their momentum. But Cranleigh clearly hadn't read the script and another breakaway try gave the league's best club a twelve point margin and it was to prove decisive.
Two breakaway tries going the length of the field had clearly given the crowd a thirst for a runaway victory but this Met team is made of strong stuff and possesses great character. Although outweighed at the set piece, the Police still managed to keep the play in the Cranleigh half and a straightforward penalty eventually got the Met off the mark. From the restart, the game oscillated around the halfway line. Eventually, the Met managed to string together several phases and Connelly spotted a gap through the flying defence to glide in under the posts to take his tally to 10 points and put the Met very much back in the game as the half-time whistle blew.
The second half was a very hard fought affair. The Cranleigh scrum was clearly stronger than the Met pack but never managed to put the thin blue line under pressure. Cranleigh's line throwing was desperately off-key and the Met made capital of it. But is was the Cranleigh No10 who made the difference, exploiting poor tackling in midfield to power over the gain line and mass support was always on hand, eventually leading to two further Cranleigh tries and a bonus point for the home side. There was also the extraordinary sight of the Cranleigh goalkicker, probably the biggest full-back since Gavin Hastings, being timed-out as he took his last conversion.
The gap of fourteen points looked like it would be enough to see Cranleigh home and dry but the Met were clearly desperate for at least a bonus point, which would have sent out a significant message to the rest of the league. As the Cranleigh lineout deteriorated, Met got their chance winning the ball on the five metre line and the pack surged toward the line. Cranleigh seemed to have arrested the maul but the introduction of several of the heavier Met three-quarters facilitated a second shunt and Simon HALL sniped off the back to place the ball down for 5 more points. Agonisingly for the visitors Connelly missed the kick and the bonus point was proving elusive. The Met through everything into the last few minutes but at the cost of some precision. Turnover followed turnover but eventually the Met conceded possession once too often and the chance was gone, the game was over.
The Met demonstrated that playing at full intensity for 80 minutes will make even the strongest opponents wobble and points and victories will surely follow. It was a cracking game for both players and spectators, partisan or neutral. Cranleigh knew they had been in a tough game and were glowing in their praise of the newcomers to Surrey 2. They may view the return at Imber court with some trepidation.