Mannerians 1st XV 5pts Buxton 1st XV 3pts
Mannerians at the double with hard-fought win over old rivals Buxton
Derbyshire Shield Final
Mannerians 1st XV 5pts Buxton 1st XV 3pts
As spectacles go this cup final might not have been up there with Sydney 2003, for example, but it was a fitting end to a successful season for Will Brocklehurst’s Mannerians.
Having been on the end of home and away defeats by Mannerians in the league this season, Buxton arrived at Ilkeston early, well-prepared and – in the current football parlance – ready to ‘park the bus’. And while this meant Buxton were unlikely to press the Bakewell line very much, evidently hoping to catch their opponents on the break, it also made for an attritional game in which Mannerians would have to earn every point.
It was Buxton that started with more momentum, using the slope, the wind and their weight to power into the Mannerian ’22. They also had the slight edge in the set scrum and lineout in the opening phase and, for what would turn out to be the only notable occasion in the game, got to within five metres of a try. Inevitably it was an energy-sapping, reverse-inducing tackle by Charlie Village that restored the balance. This set the scene for the rest of the game, for if Buxton had come to defend, Mannerians did it better. Emulating Village, big hits came in from Alistair Gregory, Zac Dann and Dave Boam, while Tom Crapper and Joe PEARCE made sure there was nowhere for Buxton to go around the wings.
Mannerians began to win increasing amounts of possession, often coming from turnovers spearheaded by Ben Hopkinson and the skipper, and livewire scrum half Tom Bell probed and teased the opposing defence. Now on the front foot, John Everitt and Max Crampton put in Carr-esque mazy runs, while Jimmy O’Neill and Ed Armstrong put themselves about in support. The Buxton defence remained intense, but such was Mannerians’ pressure penalties became a feature of what was an exemplary refereeing performance. Jack Duncan had a few attempts to convert these, but the Ilkeston wind proved an unforgiving mistress, and what might have been, on a still day, a 9-point lead, remained at stalemate until just before half-time.
Dann put a penalty into touch seven metres from the Buxton line, O’Neill’s throw sliced through the breeze, and the catch and drive was irresistible as Mannerians beat Buxton at their own game – Gregory being the worthy scorer. Again the conversion was repelled by invisible forces, leaving Mannerians only 5-0 to the good, but looking comfortable nonetheless.
The second period might have been expected to see Mannerians reinforce their advantage, but in fact Buxton narrowed the gap with an early penalty, before the game reverted to a battle of two defences. Adam Pearce and Will (not Gammy) Brocklehurst brought fresh and exuberant legs to the effort, with the powerful Chris Taylor soon giving Hopkinson a little rest. Toward the end of a game that had already started to peter out in terms of incidents of note, Rod Bell came on for Crampton, marking the end of a fine season and a renaissance of fitness and form for the venerable prop.
In truth the scoreboard belied the fact that despite an heroic Buxton effort Mannerians were always comfortably in control of the game. Had Duncan’s kicks not been so meteorologically impaired, and had Mannerians moved play to their menacing wings a bit more often, then the result may have looked more emphatic – and yet the history books will still deservedly show that they finished the season with an impressive double of cup success and promotion.
As Brocklehurst went to collect the trophy, whispers were heard in Mannerian ranks that Ed Hutchinson was planning to retire after the game – whispers that were given credence by the presence of several characters from the Mannerian folklore of his era, including the likes of Sam Adlen, Matthew Green and the formerly burly Chris Westwood. Many family members were there too, including Ed’s brother George, and his childhood nemesis, The Weasel. Other rumours circulated that these characters were only present as part of Hutchinson’s prenuptial events – but in this era of Fake News who knows what to believe?
However, given that Hutchinson is known not to read press reports, it is appropriate to reflect on the Mannerian career of someone who has arguably been more influential on the field – whether playing or not – than anyone else in the club over the past twenty years.
When the teenage Lady Manners schoolboy made his 1st XV debut in what must have been about 1994-95, in the era when the club was playing an attractive brand of 9-man rugby and most tries came from pushovers, some of the more gnarled forwards regarded this delicate, pretty, fly half with deep suspicion. They did start to soften when they found they could use him to attract girls – and when he played a part in the team that won promotion from the basement league with a memorable 24-24 draw at North Kesteven Old Boys, his status as one to watch was assured.
After university and a spell playing at a higher level with Morley, Ed returned to Mannerians and slotted into a team that had, after a difficult spell, started to accrue masses of talent but little direction, and was seemingly content to live on the occasional outlandish triumph against, say, Matlock, who were then three leagues above, yet lose to the likes of Tupton without being too fussed. The grains of improvement came under Dan Burton’s leadership, but when Ed became captain he brought a vision and a plan that transformed the way the 1st XV prepared, played and thought. Three successive league titles followed, and for nine seasons the club was established in Level 7 in the RFU hierarchy – the highest in its history. Even when Ed took a sabbatical at Derby the level was sustained, as the reforms he put in place endured. The success of this season, in which Ed played a notable part, should see the club restored to this level for 2017-18 – ten seasons after he led us to the last league and cup double.
Hopefully the rumours of this retirement are just Fake News – but if not then Ed will take with him the gratitude, respect and friendship of his teammates and club colleagues from the past two decades. But nobody must tell him that. We wouldn’t want him to get big headed.
After the presentation, club president Denzil Bowyer commented that “Of course we hope Ed is not really going to retire, but just in case I shall lead the club on a tour of Derbyshire hostelries. And from now on the Black Bull’s Head at Belper shall be known as the best worst pub in the world and designated a Three Pint Stop.”
Team: Duncan; Crapper, Dann, Boam, Pearce J (Brocklehurst other than Gammy 55); Hutchinson, Bell T; Crampton M (Bell R 70), O’Neill (Pearce A 40), Armstrong, Everitt, Gregory, Village, Brocklehurst, Hopkinson (Taylor 50-60)
Bench: Crampton O, Harker, Barratt
DISCLAIMER: This report reflects the views of the correspondent and is not necessarily the official view of Bakewell Mannerians RFC.