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2nd XV - Match centre

Gateshead II
Barnard Castle II
Sat 25 Nov 14:15 - Cup Full time

Candy Cup defeat...

Report by JAMES COLLINS

Following the all too regular Saturday morning cry offs this week for both the 2s and 3s, much of the pre-game work was pulling together 2 competitive teams to fulfil the fixtures. That was done and we managed to get 30 players together just about. It did mean me having to play 80 minutes at hooker, a position I hadn’t played since the late 90’s, but assuming we managed to stop the ball from going out for a throw in for the whole game, there was a chance it would be Ok.
(As a result of my efforts during the game, and the amount of time spent face down in the mud, some of the key facts involved in the following report may well be inaccurate/half-true/lies.)
We started well, and for the first time in a few weeks, we played from the 1st minute in the way we had planned. We took the ball through the forwards, making yards and drawing them in, Chris Owen and Todd Riley we marshalling the game well, and for a change the lads were listening to them and actually doing as they were told. We bullied them for the 1st 10 minutes or so, and we were looking good.
Midway through the half, the pressure told, and from a well worked line out we drove over and scored the first try of the game through Akar Omar. We missed the conversion, but followed it up quickly with a penalty to make the score 8-0 early on.
It was at this point that the Hardy made a try saving tackle. The tackle was made, but the landing was awkward, and made worse by the 18 stone second row landing right on top of him. It was immediately obvious that something reasonably serious was wrong, it takes a lot for Hardy to stay down, but this time we wasn’t moving (although judging by the noises he was making, he was at least alive).
The game was stopped and the Barney Physio came to help us out. The lads from Barney were 1st class in helping load Hardy on to a stretcher and get him off the pitch. It was clearly a bad one, and I had assumed Hardy would be straight on his way to the QE, so I texted him after the game to find out how he was getting on.
He was in the club house and on his third pint. Legend.
Anyway, this all left us down to 14 players. Barnard Castle took full advantage of this, scoring a couple of good tries out wide. They had pace in the backs that we would have struggled to contain at full strength, and they made the most of our lack of full back.
Credit to the lads, and we kept fighting. Akar scored another try from what would have generously been termed 1cm. But from then on, we were up against it. The 3s were having numerical problems of their own on the top pitch, so no chance of utilising a ‘shared bench’, which had never had any players on it in the first place.
In the end, the knights in shining armour came in the unlikely (but in no way unwelcome) guise of Jon Aslet and Dan Hopkinson. Jon came on in to the second row, and Dan was filling the bench. It did mean that part from myself, several players who were contributing positively to the game were forced to play out of position, and despite our continued fight and several line breaks, we just didn’t have the pace needed to finish off our chances. Final score was 13-26.
Special mentions to Tom Winning, who was having a great game in the back row before being forced to move in to the backs. His work rate and constant badgering for his teammates to work harder are annoying when you’re nearly 40 and just hoping to finish the game alive, but his attitude on Sat, and in all the games this season has been 1st class.
Todd Riley and Chris Owen were class acts, and really made the difference for us when we were at full strength. I have no doubt that without the injury they would have seen us through to a win.
Lewis Lacey was again magnificent as he has been all season, tackling anything that moves, and he and Akar did their best to make my line out throwing look better than it actually was (which was a very solid 3.5 out of 10). Akar played well again too and deserved his 2 tries, his contributions around the pitch are becoming more and more frequent and positive as he gets used to this level of rugby.
Young Dan Austin continued to improve, his work on the wing being one of the only bright spots of the second half. His growth into the second team this season has really been great to watch and the training he’s putting in is paying dividends.
And lastly, my heroes Jon Aslet and Dan Hopkinson for saving us from playing 60 minutes with 14 men. Jon came on and played like the class act he has always been, and it was no coincidence that with him in the engine room we started doing real damage to their scrum. Dan was ready to come on, but I was conscious that my last conversation with him about a return to playing was a very definite no (form his wife as much as from him), so we didn’t bring him on in the end. Those two had come along for a couple of pints and to watch a game of rugby, so for them to go out of their way to help us like they did was a real indication of their commitment to the club, and they are both legends.
Wallsend away next week. Let’s get a win lads!
(Under 1,000 words! A new record!)
Peace out everyone!

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