Toc H 3s 55-0 Manchester 3s
Screen play for Operation Barbarossa? written by Richie Bray
Perhaps not since Operation Barbarossa has an opponent made such a mistake in invading enemy territory with hopes of success.
Earlier this season, we suffered a well-deserved, heavy defeat at the hands of this good Manchester side. Not today, my comrades, not today. In the days before kick-off, many had spoken through the ether that is social media about how, on that day of defeat, we had told ourselves how to beat Manchester, yet had taken little notice of such telling. As was perhaps immortalized in White Men Can’t Jump; we listened to those words, but we did not hear them. Today, we heard them.
Looking around before kick-off, it was a sight to behold. The team looked very strong, with no negative signs from the recent defeat by Broughton. Indeed, there was a very positive vibe about the place, with everyone knowing what we had to do to beat this Manchester side. Score more points, sure, but do that more easily by avoiding their well-drilled, heavy pack. This was a ‘pure’ 3rd team of ours, too, with the 1sts and 2nds playing important games of their own. No ringers here, despite in-game questions to the referee. Indeed, a few players were missing who would likely have strengthened the team, with some players being called up to the 2nds, and others being unavailable in general. Perhaps only Stu Barratt was the eyebrow-raiser on the team sheet. Not on grounds of quality, I hasten to add, but because I, at least, thought that Stu had died some time ago, given his recent nigh-on two-decade absence from the club (longer still, if you include training).
So, with 3rd place versus 4th place about to begin, and with promotion for us still in the offing, a monumental battle was about to ensue. Birdsong ceased.
From the very start of some games, you can tell that it’s going to be a long day for one of the sides, and today was a day that was no different. Manchester were hoping for the clock to strike 13. As with many great, historic battles, very little is known about the detail. Things worked for us. Things went well for us. I recall our game plan being implemented almost perfectly for this standard, with people both catching and passing, resulting in flowing moves from the offset, and some decent early scores.
At one point I noticed a drone fly overhead. But, alas, this attempt at surveillance or perhaps a targeted assassination had come too late for Manchester, 55-0 being the final score. This is not to say that Manchester were in any way a push-over, here. There must have been 10 minutes in the first half, and a good 20 minutes in the second, where we were constantly defending. That said, things just seemed to click for us on the day, in what I think was perhaps are most accomplished performance of the season. Sure, we beat Aldwinians home and away, but today’s performance was slicker and more confident, and showed what we can do when we play with intelligence and swagger (and good weather). This also gave me the opportunity and excuse to mention that we beat Aldwinians home and away, even though they said we’d be relegated this year.
While the fog of war is great, in amongst the scores, perhaps two of worthy note emerge. Josh took what I believe to be the final try in his fine, long stride, after a move that appeared to have involved no fewer than 87 offloads and 2 between-the-leg passes. The second score brings me to the subject of a certain Gilly. As with anyone watching this day, you’d have loved to have been involved. The camaraderie, the skill set, the atmosphere, and, of course the score. People could be heard walking past saying “Is that the Fiji 7’s team?”, “Lucky that the Lions’ selection has not been finalized” and “I partied with those guys, once”. Not Gilly, though. Not Gilly. Gilly took it upon himself to demand and take a piece of this action, and demand and take game-time. And why not? The John Terry of Toc H waits for no man. On Gilly came. Over the line Gilly went. QED. Thank you and good night. On a completely unrelated note, I did not see Gilly in the mud of Broughton last week.
Returning briefly to the theme of Operation Barbarossa, people ended up in the showers, but none in gulag-like conditions (although those with a wife and children might have other views on this latter point). A great game was had by all in what, at least in my eyes, has been one of the most enjoyable and successful seasons that this team has had.