Off the back of a hard-fought win against Old Ruts the week before, Cranleigh RFC 1st team started their long string of five away fixtures at Croydon RFC on Saturday.
Heavy traffic delayed the away team’s arrival and with a restricted warm up, Cranes had to focus quickly to prepare for the kick off. With a restructured side from the week before, Cranleigh looked somewhat out of sorts with a string of errors halting their attacks.
Croydon looked to build on early possession, but with mistakes creeping in to both side’s play, Cranleigh drew first blood with winger Aaron Beacroft latching on to a misplaced pass with a fly-hack through and dotting down ahead of the Croydon cover defence for an unconverted try.
The first half continued to be dominated by errors and slick play by the Cranleigh backline was either smothered by the home side’s defensive line or the final pass failing to meet its mark.
Captain Phil Moore and second row Pete Barraud continued their solid attacking runs and built ground where possible, only to be hindered by more lapses in concentration or a frustrating rising penalty count.
Croydon piled on the pressure from the boot of the eventual man of the match, their fly-half, and with his first attempt at goal slotted a penalty.
The two sides parried for the remainder of the half until the away side were caught napping and a break through the line from a kick tap penalty set up an attacking platform on the 22m line, from which Croydon exploited the numbers and ran in for their first try, which was then converted.
On the stroke of half-time the visitors were gifted a penalty but another frustrating miss saw the score at the turn around stay at 10-5.
From the restart Cranleigh were keen to impose themselves on the game from the off and hard tackling lead by inside centre James Moore set a platform for the Cranleigh game.
Good work in the loose from both teams seemed to nullify any attacking chances and even with Cranes bolstered by the return of flanker Harry Nye, the visitors seemed to get their required foothold on the game.
Lacking the control and tenacity of the previous weeks the away side fought hard to gain territory and a run of possession saw the Cranleigh side spend a prolonged period in the opposition 22m.
The growing ill discipline and handling errors saw a number of chances to add points go adrift and with the clock ticking the chance to get the win seemed to be slipping from the away side.
A further penalty to Croydon saw their lead increase to 13-5 and a drop goal attempt from the Cranleigh 10 pushed narrowly wide of the posts with the frustrations and concern from the visitors mounting.
Cranleigh were gifted a life-line by the home side as a mounting attacking from Croydon was swiftly ended by Bryan Woodhouse, who, playing out of position at outside centre, sprang through on a Croydon pass to take the interception and sprint home from long range to score under the posts. With the conversion added, Cranleigh were in losing bonus point territory at 13-12 and the momentum to push through and go for the win.
Stupidity prevailed and a penalty provided Croydon with the chance to nudge the ball into the corner to relieve some pressure and the resulting line out was excellently taken to setup the driving maul, a favoured weapon of the visitors which had worked to great effect during the game was now being used against them.
The maul trundled towards the Cranleigh try line, the inevitable try was forced over by the Croydon back row and the conversion pushed the away side out of losing bonus point territory as Croydon won 20-12.
Frustrations for the visitors who played well below their ability and current form and few would argue that Croydon did not deserve their win.
Plenty to build on for Cranleigh who need to win their remaining fixtures with bonus points to contend for the elusive top spots.