MATCH REPORT: 1XV Away at Thamesians
A wining start to the league for the 1's but with definite room for improvement.
After a promising preseason which saw record turnouts at training and some very encouraging performances in friendly fixtures, there was a quiet confidence building amongst the Finsbury Park RFC family. However, in the cold light of day none of that matters if you don’t step up when it counts.
The word ‘penalty’ features in every single match report written last season*, such was the regularity that they blighted Finsbury Park’s otherwise stellar season. So it came as little surprise that coach Gareth Champan’s pre-game team talk emphasised the importance of a low penalty count to our game plan. There are a number of things that can get in between a man and his game plan: Chaz Dempsey, for example, couldn’t keep his mind from wandering to the young Antipodean who was the unfortunate recipient of his train journey charms; Fred Bromley was busy bemoaning the fact that the long walk from the changing rooms got dangerously close to cardiovascular exercise that is not meant to infringe on the life of a front row; and Morgan Carter- Tocny simply decided not to bother with the first half of the game (but more on Morgan later).
*Did I make this statistic up, maybe? Are you going to verify it? No, so get rodded.
Whatever the reason Finsbury Park RFC, collectively and individually, decided to sack off the well headed advice of our much admired coach and begin life in our new league in the manner familiar to us in every league we’ve played in during our short, gilded history. Giving away penalties, surrendering ground and ultimately 3 points down. As this writer is a fan and (star) player for Finsbury Park, I am of course going to tell you that we did not deserve to be behind. We were the better team. If we got our acts together it wouldn’t be long before we got ahead, as we deserved. But as it transpired, whether or not we were the better team, we continued to hear the familiar sound of the ref’s whistle and the sight of their weirdly friendly number 10 kicking our hard earned ground in to touch.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Something we aren’t as familiar with at Finsbury Park: dominant scrums. Every time we packed down. Every single time. It was great. You should have seen it. A beautiful thing. A full analysis of the cause of this success has not yet been carried out. I’m taken to believe the theory that the newly formed second row partnership of Dan Brett and Sam Parkes gave the scrum a level stability that hasn’t been seen before, but also significant could be the emergence of a new prop in Andy Wakelin. Where did he come from? I’m not entirely sure, but he and Frazer Findlater seemed to know each other so I’m assuming he’s another one dragged out of the big bag of kiwi rugby players that the club appears to have gotten hold of. The plaudits for FP’s set pieces don’t end there though, as we brought the will drilled lineouts straight from preseason into the game, utilising the full variety of lineout moves from very early on in the game. Promising stuff.
Unfortunately, the plaudits for the FP’s forward pack do end there. The 3 pronged forward system which even Dan Brett had managed to demonstrate a certain knowledge of in preseason was completely thrown out the window as Finsbury Park engaged in some classic up the jumper rugby. Which might have been fine, after all we know that Evan Gwilliam can hit a decent line and that Patrick Joyce likes to put a bifter in every now and again, if only we could have resisted the temptation to put hands in rucks and had managed to roll away after a tackle. At least Thamesians were kind enough to give away their share of penalties, one of which was struck neatly between the sticks by Fraizer Findlater to even the scores. 3-3, bring us to half time. Please.
You have noticed that my report of the first half doesn’t really mention the backs at all. You may be confused why the backs weren’t involved in the game. We all were.
Right. New half, new attitude. New commitment. New outcome.
Not quite but near enough. You have read the final score, we got there, we won. But we didn’t make it easy for ourselves. Admittedly, we gave away fewer penalties and began to dominate the game and began to hold on to our possession and began to creep deeper and deeper into the Thamesian half. Until, inevitably, we would give away a penalty and let them release the pressure with boot out of danger. F*cking hell.
The breakthrough finally came about 10 minutes into the half. Camped on their line following a poor defensive line out – their prop had chosen to back their faltering lineout rather than his own scrummaging ability. A good decision but not good enough, driven back to their own line they dropped the ten as deep as the deadball line would allow and prepared to kick their way out of trouble again.
Now, there’s this rule that says when the ball is behind the try line the ruck is no longer active and there’s no offside line. Connor Murray used it to great effect at the last 6 nations apparently. However, like all proper Englishmen should, our entire forward pack refused to acknowledge that the 2018 6 nations tournament even occurred – let alone that anything of significance might have happened or important lessons about obscure rules might be learned. Luckily, our industrious 10 Chris Green knows every intricate detail of the IRB Rugby Union Code of Play and trotted past the ruck (which wasn’t) and passed their bewildered 9 to collect his first 5 points of the season. In the interest of maintaining the club’s good standing in the community I will exclude from this report the foul language with which he reprimanded his forwards for not knowing the rules, but needless to say he wasn’t particularly polite.
You may have noticed this match report is somewhat late – being published 6 days after the date in question. For this I can only apologise. In particular an apology is owed to Richard Farmer who also collected his first try of the season, which I cannot recall for the life of me. In my defence I had stopped noticing the backs after their absence from the first 40 minutes of rugby. But by Chris Green’s description he got sat down by a fullback half his size and got away with a double movement to get over the line. Sounds believable, I dunno.
I do recall another of Farmer’s significant events of the game, narrowly avoiding a yellow card on 60 minutes for kicking out at Thamesian’s no 8. In light of the fact his (presumably wonderful) try has been omitted from this report I will not describe his narrow escape as one might – a needless lashing out simply because Thamesians hardworking no.8 wanted him to roll away from a ruck – instead I’ll describe it as self-defence from outdated and dangerous play from which he was lucky to come out alive.
As the second half wore on the backs did start to come out of their hiding place and we saw some quite nice play. The combination of Chris and Fraizer at first and second receiver has always been a dangerous one but made even more so when Paul Baker is relieved at 9 and replaced by Josh Ledger who can pass off both hands! The discovery late in the day of the MOTM winning pace and step of debutant winger Aengus Ryan really brought the attacking flair to light. Unfortunately it took the DOTD winning gall of Frazer to teach him that he perhaps ought to look outside him to find what was lacking in the early parts of the game. Clean through, over the line, the game a long way from a forgone conclusion, he just has to step one more player; he cant just take the points and be happy - he drops the ball, costs us a try and tries to laugh it off. DOTD. Well deserved. Not even Morgan is going to take it off you.
Luckily Hugo Murray, debuting at fullback, can probably fill in at inside centre when Fraizer inevitably gets dropped. He managed to do what Fraizer couldn’t and put the ball down over the try line. Following some good link up play on the wing, a break from Aengus, and the ball was spread quickly wide to attack a fractured defensive line, just as we’ve been practicing. Lovely distribution from Chris left Patrick Joyce with plenty of time to find the right pass and put through Hugo. A very well worked try. (Just for the record though – I was also an option for that final pass, I’ve been Paddy’s backrow partner for two years, you’d have thought he might have shown some loyalty but that’s fine. Whatever.)
As I’ve said, the penalty count was high but the game was far from a dirty one, both sides played the game in good spirits if not in good style. Nonetheless, perhaps it would be wise to bring on some fresh legs in the form of recently arrived Morgan. Bring in his cooling presence to prevent anything from boiling over. Maybe he’d had a stressful morning at work, maybe he didn’t get the birthday present he had hoped for the day before, I’m not sure, but It’s hard to believe he could get that would up from playing all of 5 minutes of rugby.
I’ve got to admit when I saw it, I did think he’d been sent off for not much, a bit of push and shove and a bit of arguing, surely the ref was being over-zealous? But then again, I’ve been moved to second bloody row now so I just lay around at the bottom of rucks I don’t really have to follow the ball and get in the action anymore so I can’t really say my account is an accurate one. In the words of one teammate (who shall remain nameless so as to prevent Morgan’s anger transferring onto him) “To be fair he proper went off on him, calling him out for a fight and everything – he probably deserve to walk”. Make your own minds up, over-zealous reffing or over aggressive Morgan? Either way 14 men with 15 minutes to go. The resulting penalty inside our own 22, knocked out for an attacking lineout on the five, a couple of ignored forward passes and they got over line. 13-22.
This match report probably omits quite a few key moments, notably Evan confusing himself and falling over in a lineout and Paddy cheering himself as he makes a 2 man hit with Chaz. But I’m writing this at work so I’m gonna have to leave it at that, even in the public sector you have to do the day job eventually. Oh yeah conversions, Frazer took 3 missing all but one. As I said, DOTD. Well deserved.
Well done boys we got the win. Play better next week.