Our first match
Reports on our first match by Chris Hibbert and Andy Watt.
Technical report by Chris Hibbert:
First 10 minutes of the game the Sea Serpents seemed a bit at a loss with how the training and game fit together with gaps in defence leading to a try for the Steelers. After a quick talk from Iggy, defensive line awareness was highlighted and people started to make a flat line rather than an attacking "dog leg" line. The Steelers used a very aggressive pod like structure to drive the Sea Serpents' line back.
Second 10 minutes, the defence was stronger, with forwards and close backs helping stop the drive from the Steelers' attacks, slowing them down. Still some issues with marking of their attacking backs and where people should stand, some offside and some too deep. Kicking for the fly half was nearly impossible due to strong head winds and lack of experience with kicking.
The overall first half highlighted issues with both attack and defence. When attacking, often forwards did not work in their pods, leaving the attacking Sea Serpent vulnerable, but great drivers of the forwards in attack were Byron and Phil. These players should be encouraged to form pods quickly and maybe become pod leaders. On the plus side our rucks where strong and turnovers did occur as we drove over the smaller Steelers at times. On the defence side most players tackling too high having not much experience with tackling and used to two hand touch rugby which in Iggy's words "is great for a warm up and getting backs moving around at pace", highlighted the need for all players to undergo more tackle training. The defensive line was stronger as the half proceeded but as players got tired mistakes occurred leading to further tries.
The second half was a much stronger game from the Sea Serpents and defence again was great. Our back line had issues with ball handling making it very hard for the fly half to get the ball out to the fast wingers, which would have changed the game about. From this end the fly half was also able to kick the ball away, which meant we could drive the Steelers back from the try line. Strong ball attackers included Byron, Phil and myself (Chris Hibbert) with the Steelers saying these players had to be "two manned". Panicking was an issue throughout the game with bad passes and freezing being the result, lack of experience is the key to this but will improve as players relax in a game.
Overall technically the game from both sides had minor law breakages which the referee overlooked, such as punts instead of drop kicks, some knock-ons and very slightly forward passes; this kept the pace quick and made for a great game for both sides. It did mean that the Sea Serpents who only had one sub did feel the effects of fatigue and the refreshed subs the Steelers made meant they had more energy. The Sea Serpents still made it very hard for them to score tries. The Steelers should have won by more as they had 3 months of extra experience, higher number of recently played rugby players and more subs. It was due to the Sea Serpents non-stop attitude which prevented this, so a massive pat on the whole team's back!
Points to improve the Sea Serpents
Forwards = Pod work. The Steelers always worked in at least threes when attacking.
Backs = Handling of the ball quickly and kicking practice.
Team = Tackling, Marking men and formations (attack and defensive).
General = We need more match experience which I believe is coming.
Emotional report by Andy Watt:
Three months ago, I joined a newly formed gay rugby team, the Brighton & Hove Sea Serpents. Like many others in the group, I had never played before. With a lot of trepidation, I turned up for our first training session in the park with around 25 others. My mind was calmed though when I realised I wasn’t quite the smallest person in attendance, nor the oldest, nor the most unfit.
We had loads of fun, followed by what else, drinking… The pub was surprised to see so many bare thighs on display but made us feel most welcome in the beer garden by handing out woolly blankets, which was gratefully received on what was a gorgeously sunny but cold afternoon!
Fast-forward some weeks later to January, where we were welcomed to our new home at Hove Rugby Club, training with one of their teams under various guest coaches. We were all developing nicely albeit slowly, learning how to pass correctly, how to be in the right position, how to tackle and be tackled. One of my team-mates is a personal trainer and set up ‘beasting’ fitness sessions after training, which was surprisingly popular, although I might be lying…
With a fledgling organisation, it has been necessary to spread the word and secure sponsorship. To that end, last Saturday was destined to be our first match, against the Kings Cross Steelers IV team, based in London (who have just celebrated their 20th year in existence). By playing, we would be officially inaugurated as the 15th gay rugby team in the country and the 69th in the world. In the meantime, our poor Captain had many sleepless nights trying to fix us up into a team of 15 that would work. I was designated as the inside centre, no. 12.
So what happened? Here are my ‘on-the ground’ recollections of the build-up and the match itself:
After light training, no drinking that lunchtime: it was match day instead. Food down the hatch, ready for some wise words of encouragement back in the changing room from our de facto manager. Safety, pride, teamwork. New kit on, out into the void of swirling wind and tiny raindrops. Basic drills repeated to keep us warm. Touchlines filling up and noise levels rising from hushed expectation to a hubbub. A final huddle behind the posts: our Captain pumped us up quite unlike any way we’d seen before – serious, game-face, no way to turn back now.
And you know what, it worked! Our senses were alive to this new crucible: fears of taking a tackle, fears of making the wrong move, it somehow didn’t matter. Time flew by. Faces of aggression, anger, agony. Sounds of clashing bodies, sliding through the mud and desperately shouted instructions. Wry humour from the ref as he patiently kept the game flowing. We were training on the job but we learnt quickly and galvanised as a solid unit.
Yes, we had lost to a bigger and more experienced team but we were bursting with pride and exhilaration at the end. We had found strength in ourselves but more importantly in our team-mates, forged from our diverse back stories.
And afterwards? That would be telling…