The Counts pay the price for leaving it late in Surrey Division One

Croydon Guardian: Moving up: Pete Cowlin leads the Walcountians forwards on a charge Moving up: Pete Cowlin leads the Walcountians forwards on a charge

For the fourth time this season, Old Walcountians paid the price of letting opponents build a lead that was too big to pull back as they tumbled to a 35-27 at Old Whitgiftians in Surrey Division One.

The Counts were put under pressure by the home side from the very start and not only were Whitgiftians winning the forward battles, their backs successfully closed down a Walcountians backline which had considerable pace to burn, even with Tom and Will Diamond absent. 

The visitors only looked threatening when scrum-half Callum Stone or number eight Gerry Connor broke with the ball. 

Nevertheless, they took the lead after 10 minutes when fly-half Ross Norton banged over a penalty and, although the hosts regained the lead five minutes later when their backs opened up the Counts’ defence, the Counts narrowly missed out on retaking the lead in the 18th minute when a Norton penalty was off target.

However, continued Whitgiftians’ pressure brought huge dividends in the second quarter as they surged into a 21-point lead with three tries and a penalty. 

The first try came in the 21st minute when the Whitgiftians forwards drove over from a maul in the Counts’ line. 

Although Norton again cut the arrears with his second penalty of the day, Whitgiftians restored their advantage with one of their own from their fly-half and followed up with two more tries.

Walcountians remained under the cosh in the opening minutes of the second half when the hosts continued to extend their lead with a third penalty, followed by a try started from a line-out on the Counts 5m line and followed with a forward drive. 

However, from this point, the Counts began to edge their way back into the game. 

A tighter defence stopped any further Whitgiftians scores and the introduction of winger Ryan McGibbon added extra zip to the backs, while the addition of forwards Pete Cowlin and Dan Jones added a greater physicality to the pack. 

Pete and Steve Cowlin were instrumental in turning the tables in the forwards' battle as their bullocking runs drove Walcountians forward and provided a platform for a spectacular finale.

Norton touch down for a try he converted himself, and then, as the game went into time added on, Walcountians stunned their hosts with two late tries. 

The first came two minutes into stoppage time from abrasive flanker Sam Naylor, playing in his 150th game for the Counts, who ran onto a pass from Callum Stone and smashed his way through the hosts' defence to touch down. 

A minute later, another try followed - the Counts counter-attacked from the kick-off and centre Fred South carved a huge hole in the Whitgiftians defence, from which he set up a ruck for the ball to be recycled and on its way to the backs again for a move which winger McGibbon finished by outpacing his opposite number. 

Norton converted both tries to bring the Counts to within eight points of their hosts.

Walcountians are third from bottom in the table, protected by a superior points difference to Croydon. 

They face another demanding fixture next Saturday when they travel to third-placed Old Tiffinians.  Kick-off at Summer Road, Molesey, is at 2.30pm.

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