MATCH REPORT: 1XV Away at Staines
The Try Machine who came for tea - Match Report by Frederick Bromley
Mid-June 2018. Just off Holloway Road…
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In one fell swoop, Finsbury Park RFC was deprived of its captain, loosehead and number 8 for a game to take place in the idyllic surrounds of Staines in late October. The figures in question didn’t yet know that the Fins would be going into this game on the back of 3 straight wins and an unbeaten start to life in Herts/Middlesex 1. They didn’t know they would have a points difference of +128 for the concession of just 2 tries as Saturday 29th September dawned. They were completely unaware that the match day programme arranged by the opposition would describe the all-conquering Greens as a “try scoring machine”, and yet do so in a way that managed to suggest overachievement and an impending rude awakening. They knew nothing…
North London. Finsbury Park…
Eyes fluttering open, the Fins front rower considered what the day held as consciousness took an ever greater grasp of his mind. Of all the things he felt, leaderless was not one: his absent captain’s replacement had put fire in the belly of the whole team the day before, carrying forward the best aspects of his Antipodean brethren (clear travel instructions) whilst implementing his own innovations in his virtual call to arms (spellcheck). Whilst there was much unknown about the day: the quality of the paddock, the challenge the opposition would pose, how good the post-match food would be; one thing could be relied on – a quiet man from down under leading by example.
A few other things could also be relied on. Paddy would request collection via some unreasonable detour. The team would firmly commit to arriving in good time, and then trickle in within an hour of kick off. Anyone responsible for team organisation would spend the morning with the gnawing question of just how far into the game it would be when Morgan turned up.
In the end there was also plenty to mix things up for those tired of the usual tropes. Elder statesman Paul Baker failed to bring any clothes below the waist, which he then turned into a hilarious joke about Staines players not remembering him when then asked why he was wearing their shorts. Centre Parkes, recently returned from abroad, brought more than just a questionable ‘tache along, deciding that with 30 minutes to go and kick off looming was the perfect time to experiment with his chest mounted GoPro – only an aborted attempt to film the inside of Izzy’s nose during a lineout put paid to that plan. In short, it was the type of poorly focused warm up that the Fins had been trying to cut out, right down to the 15 minutes spent in a team huddle waiting for the opposition to enter the pitch – a process that went on so long Paul Baker managed to deliver 4 rousing calls to arms (each with a different set of “key” messages), and captain Frazer almost started a second sentence.
When it came, it was like the preceding hours melted away – the Try Machine switched on. It took just 4 minutes for the Fins to open the scoring through half of Lincolns finest wing duo, Rory streaking past the covering fullback from the 22 after Faltering Fullback Hugo Murray had forced the winger to turn in. It was good play from the Fins, the backs playing their part to perfection, and things looked ominous for Staines. In the end it took another 15 minutes for the Park to register another score down the other edge, Gus Ryan continuing his hot streak. 10 minutes later the Fullback himself stepped the 13 (which was wise – he would have hurt you if he’d caught you) before rounding his opposite man and dotting down. This was from 40 metres out – he really wants everyone to know that. This was followed shortly after by Gus striking again in a similar fashion to his first score. Try Bonus Point to the Fins – 35 minutes gone. The Machine was humming.
Now this is not to say that Staines hadn’t applied their own pressure – Finsbury Park’s fiercely held sense of fair play had seen them try to keep the opposition in touch through… well, lots of unfair play. This penalty count gave led to lots of practice in defending lineouts on our 5m line, and whilst as ever the Fins defence was impressively resolute, a score was conceded at the end of the first half.
Now the observant among you may have noticed that there is not a huge amount of descriptive detail in accounts of the tries scored by the flowing Fins. This is therefore an opportune moment to introduce a key rugby concept to many of you. As you will already know, the most difficult, technical, and impressive aspect of the game of Rugby Football is undoubtedly the scrum; the greatest proponents of those dark and beautiful arts – the Tight-Five. These giants among men toil and trouble to secure the platform from which glorious victory can emerge – indeed it is only so that some plaudits may be shared that tries are oft scored far, far away from these titanic contests. This was one such game, in which the quality of ball offered to the backs from their hearty fellows secured multiple tries.
But, a quandary: whilst engaged in that struggle, the Tight-Five forward is engrossed, and has no conception of what else may or may not be taking place on the pitch. He may be told a try has been scored, and who carried out the act, but being the type to trust in what he sees, he cannot be sure of such reports. Thus results the phenomenon known as Schroedinger’s Try: in which the try was scored, and was not scored, and is still being scored, by all of the backs, and by none of them. Only one thing is certain: we won the scrum, and therefore the try is ours. It is a phenomenon that has been seen many times this season, and seems likely to be seen many times again.
A pause for breath. An hot, hungover Irishman shouting in your ear. The perfect arena to set and go again.
It is often said that the most important times to score are before and after halftime. A side to concede before the midway whistle will go into the break full of doubt. The side to come out of the blocks fastest will carry that momentum through. It is likely that the Staines teamtalk covered this narrative. How their coach must have rejoiced when the West Side Massiv scored quickly after halftime. How the Fins must have been knocked – Frazer’s angry recriminations at the Catalonian Stallion Salvador Peya for having been rounded by the opposition 10 off a quick tap penalty when he only had 24 metres of space to cover certainly looked like it.
Unfortunately for Ma Julie, the fairytale ending was not to be. The Machine was not off – just on standby. Quick hands soon put Rory in at the corner on the 50th minute. Then, 5 minutes later, an example of the kind of masterful transitions that are helping the Fins to rack up the points this year – a break from Frazer inside out half fed Parkes on the inside who showed that the distinction between second and back row meant little to him as he streaked upfield; a speculative long pass off his left showed that actually there may have been some distinction, as the ball hit the deck, but it was scooped up by Gus who provided an outlandish back of the hand pass to Machine operator Chris Green who stepped the cover and dotted down in the corner.
Some long periods of defending did feature in the second half, courtesy of the afore-mentioned “evening up”, but somehow the Fins managed to keep stretching the lead by virtue of their stunning counter-attacks. The first saw a blindside break from Frazer followed by another piece of sleight of hand to get the ball back into the marauding Fullback’s arms. A simple run in, this time from 60 metres. Sickening I’m sure (I certainly felt a bit sick by that point). The final act of the game followed this vein, with another counter reaching Gus “the racing snake” Ryan who pinned his ears back to go half the pitch and get his hattrick. No one was actually chasing him, but he looked like he was enjoying himself.
And thus endeth the lesson. The Fins once again took the 5 points, and continue to show the league that we aren’t here to make up the numbers.
Man of the Match – Hugo Murray, for having a hand in virtually every score of the game. In general, the backs were all pretty outstanding.
Dick of the Day – Ed Morden, for being timed out on a kick in front of the posts.