6. James Herb
7. Johnny Kiwi-Booth
8. Johnny A
10. Matt Ace
11. Elliot Broad-Scar
13. Matt Smith
15. Tim Hutchinson
16. John Williams
18. Ollie Pearce
Saturday 10th December 2011: A bitterly cold, wintery day in the south west. Cotham’s players travelled North (and Ken came West) to Chipping Sodbury, top of the table, and giving most teams a hiding so far this season. So the Men of Failand arrived in the quaint South Glos Village, passing the Santa’s Grotto on the high street and various festive-filled establishments, to be greeted with CSRFC’s bunker-style changing rooms; about as inviting as a hotel modelled on Auschwitz.
After putting Cheltenham Civil Service to the sword the previous Saturday, the boys where optimistic; and for 90% of the day, they did not disappoint. As Damo and his band of multi-racial, multi-national hombres closed in on their destination in the Aussie’s Astra, the rest of the boys where rubbing their hands together in the spacious changing room, attempting to avoid hypothermia. Well, Ginna was taping himself together...
Determined to replicate last week’s performance, we stuck with the same preparation; Karl outlining the game plan, before heading into the warm-up in the chilly conditions. As we readied ourselves for kick-off, a large crowd was gathering on the sidelines...but more on them LOVELY UPSTANDING GENTLEMEN later.
And so the game kicked off. The early pressure came from the home side - making a number of forays into the Cotham half in the early exchanges. But it was instantly apparent, to Sodbury, to Cotham and to the LOVELY UPSTANDING GENTLEMEN on the sidelines this was not going to be an easy day for the league leaders. Cotham’s tackles where hard and jarring, leaving Sodbury with little space to play. Their beefy pack got very irate and punchy from the off, obviously unhappy with their better looking, better educated, better scrimmaging opposition: All three of those points proven right by their Charles Bronson (+50 pounds) look-a-like inability to understand a simple Movember joke from Victor. Victor himself seemed to be receiving the brunt of foul play from both the Sodbury forwards and the LOVELY UPSTANDING GENTLEMEN looking on. The home sides early attempts at spinning it wide also proved fruitless, Dom and Matt Smith
ensuring their gangly 12 didnt get up to speed. In the end, Chipping took 3 points on offer. 3 – 0.
Next it was Cotham’s turn to apply some pressure. Excellent carries and dog balls from an invigorated pack made hard yards; the ball then coming out to the backs for their first assault on the home side, testing the defence with strong carries from midfield. More forward play and a couple of deft chips from Damo at 9 pushed us into the 22. The breakdown was a mess, and the referee could not get a handle on it, seemingly awarding penalties on a rock-paper-scissors-in-the-head basis. But Cotham didn’t give up as Sodbury failed to clear their lines sufficiently, leading to an attacking lineout on the 5-yard line. But it would be the Men of Failand’s Achilles heel again, and if the home side where awake and alert, they would’ve spotted Johnny Kiwi bursting off the back of the line to collect the spoilt ball and power over for the opening try. Damo stepping up to expertly slot the conversion. 3 – 7.
Cotham’s pressure continued, the forwards dominant in the scrum, making it hard for their 9 to get clean ball to the backs. However, Sodbury where not going to lie down, with their 6 and 8 heading an excellent effort in the loose. We tackled hard, Johnny Kiwi in particular putting himself about, both making and taking some big hits. The home backs had shook the early game jitters and where starting to play a little more. Their 12 making a telling break from their own territory, offloading to their winger who, if not for a brilliant last ditch tackle by Tim at 15, would’ve been in for the score. However that would be the last of their centres space in midfield, Dom and Matt Smith
seemingly shutting up shop in the 12-13 channel on 30 minutes. The half ebbed and flowed towards the whistle. We edged into their territory, the pack again providing plenty of grunt up front, while Damo and Matt Ace
distributed well, spinning it out for Elliot to make a break on the right. The ball came back across before Wellsy showed his flanker roots, peeling off rucks and stepping to make a few hard yards. Cotham ending the half on top - camped on Chipping’s line, only for the ref to end an excellent first forty for Cotham. 6 – 7 at halftime.
The second half started as the first had finished. End to end rugby was marred somewhat by Sodbury’s constant foul play, which happened to be completely missed by the man with the whistle, instead penalising Cotham for infringing at the breakdown. The LOVELY UPSTANDING GENTLEMEN were getting mouthier and drunker (more drunk). Wellsy (so my mother told me) and Matt Ace
on the receiving end of some criticism of sexuality and weight (respectively), prompting my 6’ 4” built-like-a-brick-and-mortar-shit-house brother to threaten to knock some wanker’s, excuse me: LOVELY UPSTANDING GENTLEMEN’S lights out.
Cotham where eventually pinned back in their own 22; the home side fruitlessly looking for a way through the stout defence. At this point almost every player from 1 to 15 had made a telling, crunching tackle (Either that, or I was in a car crash yesterday). And this frustrated Sodbury, Cotham eventually clearing their lines, and making their way up-field. A few phases later and Sodbury were about to utilise a massive overlap on the left side of the field; only for the ball to comically pop out of a ruck and into the hands of the Greek, offloading to Victor who had a clear run to the line. He eventually got there with a little directional help from Elliot, obviously a little taken aback by the opportunity that had been afforded to him. This is where the game turned, and you would be forgiven for thinking it would be in Cotham’s favour. An extended break between try and conversion attempt came due to a serious injury the Sodbury 15. He was in need of an ambulance, and so after making the lad safe and warm (we wish him well), the ref restarted the game with caution - Damo again slotting the extras. 6 – 14.
The extended break seemed to spur the home side on - instantly applying the pressure from the kick-off and eventually going over in the corner from a scrum, which was now being dominated by Sodbury. 13 – 14.
Cotham’s dysfunctional line-out and some loose kicking hindered our progress into the opposition territory. And so Sodbury came at us again. The excellent tackling continued. However, by this point the referee had seemingly lost the plot, first awarding a series of awful decisions to the home side, then sending Damo to the bin for, we assume, being a Wallaby: he apparently mixed up Damo and Johnny A (I know, how?) after the latter jumped a ruck to knock the ball outta their 9’s hand. Regardless, Cotham’s defence held firm. Numerous reset scrums where spoiled (illegally, according to you-know-who) by Cotham, and eventually Sodbury gave up and handed it to their goal kicking winger (who had an excellent game all round) to slot the penalty and hand Cotham defeat, much to the joy of the now stone cold smashed LOVELY UPSTANDING GENTLEMEN.
And so it was an “L”, not a “W”, and we can talk of the questionable refereeing (to be fair to him, the Sodbury support made it exceptionally hard for him to ref the game on his terms), the injury breakd, the wanker’s on the sideline (I can’t be arsed with politeness anymore) or the discernible opposition ‘til the cows come home. But in truth we should’ve won that game, and won it well. We were the better side in all areas for much of the game, and need to learn how to close games out if we are to propel ourselves back to Gloucester 1.
Light relief did come in the form of John Williams
peeling (then ripping) Ginna’s aforementioned tape from his shoulder, and a tasty sausage casserole courtesy of the home side.
To be positive, the team is gelling well. We are an excellent attacking and defensive unit, and if we could only improve our lineout, kicking game and decision making at times. We could be a force to be reckoned with in this league and the next: and that’s down to training, and training hard.
It’s the last game of the year next week, and we should all be settling for nothing less than a massive “W” to put the smiles back on a disappointed Cotham side.
Tries: Johnny Kiwi, Victor
Cons: Damo (2)