Squeezed Out By Midwives
Undeterred by scorching temperatures and a punishing attrition rate King’s fight all the way, winning the second half 21-17, before ultimately succumb to the Matrons.
Typically May Bank holidays mean one thing and one thing only, a week of warm sunshine to excite the nation just in time for three days of leaden skies and rain. Not so in 2018 though, quite the opposite in fact as some tropical thunderstorms in the days leading to Saturday were followed by cloudless skies and undiluted sunshine. The pitch was, predictably, firm to say the least. With Esher RFC bustling with players and followers of a many clubs on a busy day, at near enough 2pm Old MidWhitgiftians (erstwhile Whitgift Middle School, now Trinity) kicked off the Vets’ Pitcher final.
It was those wearing the shirts of black and blue who started to brighter showing plenty of attacking intent with their burly loose forwards willing carriers whilst OMW 1XV Dan Crouch pulled the strings. King’s were tackling manfully but it was no great surprise that Midwives were the first to cross after numerous battering phases; 0-5. King’s had already realised that a forwards’ arm-wrestle was going to be sapping and unrewarding and it was time to let some of the three-quarters break a sweat. Centre Fraser Houlder had an even better idea and instead chipped over an onrushing defence from 25m out and chased his own kick and, in a scene reminiscent of Rob Howley v’s Clement Poitrenaud in the 2004 Heineken Cup final, cheekily grounded the ball under the nose of the OMW winger who had trusted that it would go dead first. Referee Ashley Lipke was not persuaded by the Midwives’ noisy protestations and awarded the try which Julian Lamb converted; 7-5.
King’s tails were up and the three-quarters were now beginning to enjoy themselves. Those gathered looked on with nostalgic eyes as the dancing feet of Kyle Jardine created an opening down the right before a no-look offload to winger Alex Barnes saw King’s surge into the OMW 22. Despite some huff and puff the defence stood firm and engineered an escape. As it transpired that was as good as it got during the first period for King’s as during the second quarter of the game OMW grabbed the proceedings by the proverbial scruff of the neck and scored two more tries, the first from a classic scrum-half snipe, and then again when King’s ran out of defenders through the middle having been heaved left and right. Coupled with two game ending injuries, both at lock, a twelve point lead in favour of the Croydon side was beginning to look ominous.
As the teams took on water at the interval both took the opportunity to make changes in a bid to keep the energy levels as high as they were ever going to be in a Vets game on a hot day. Whatever was said OMW once again started fastest and turned extended their advantage as their left wing scampered over; 7-24. Not to be out done, having won a penalty wide on the left, moments later the Matrons’ right winger evaded the clutches of the King’s defence to chalk up a fifth try; 7-29.
The outcome now seemed in little doubt, and the salient question became whether King’s – by now further depleted by injuries – would simply capitulate, or go to what the professionals call “dark places” and find something extra. Pleasingly for the sake of the contest, King’s did not let their heads drop, quite the opposite in fact. After their first period of genuinely sustained pressure a trickle of penalties became a flow and after one high-tackle too many as King’s surged for the line Mr. Lipke did not hesitate to march under the posts for a penalty try; 14-29. With Julian Lamb off for a breather it was down to Jotty Dhillon to take charge of the orchestra from the fly-half slot, and conduct he did. With some quick ball a triple dummy worthy of Carlos Spencer saw Kyle Jardine hit an irresistible line from full-back which a flat-footed defence could do nothing about as he crossed under the posts from where Jotty added the extras; 21-29.
On a sudden those in old gold, red and blue began to think surely a comeback wasn’t possible? When OMW were reduced to 14 following an illegal arm-free clear at a ruck by one of their loose forwards, nerves were jangling on both sides, albeit for different reasons. In fairness to Midwives they realised that what was needed was less action, not more and got hold of the ball and kept it safely in the trusty arms of their big men. From a scrum a free-kick was awarded and a sprightly incursion into the King’s 22 and a neat offload saw the South Londoners across for a converted try celebrated commensurate with the relief it brought; 21-36.
Yet more changes ensued for both sides – including every available sub bar one for King’s – as all gathered steeled themselves for the final stanza. Eager to finish on a high the Wimbledon boys probed for gaps in the opposition defence, which they were beginning to find. Following an Ollie Malik break the ball was swung back the other way when a tired and somewhat cynical deliberate knockdown from a Midwives’ prop saw the referee extend his arm for a penalty advantage. In fairness King’s had had little joy at the set piece all day so keeping the ball alive was by far the preferable option and just as they had for their first score, it was to be a chip which flummoxed the OMW defence, and as Kyle Jardine chased his kick along side him the dulcet tones of the inimitable Richie Duncan were heard to say “please Kyle, please……”. The result, a try in (what he claimed would be) his last game from the man who brought us ‘The Boot’. Two more points came from the Silver Fox; 28-36. There was precious little of the game left, and nothing of note followed in the time that remained.
Although their might have been a touch of disappointment with the outcome, their was no shame in losing to a slick OMW collective who on the balance of play would themselves have been disappointed had they not come out on top. MOM went to Mark Macaskill who was at his marauding best all day. The fact that several of them have played together since school showed though and their offloading game would have put many a younger club side to shame. We say well done, and doubtless we’ll see you again.
For King’s, injuries notwithstanding, it was a good day out and the performance did not lack for spirit in what were pretty unrelenting conditions. Enjoy your Summer gentlemen and see you next season – hopefully with a friend or two – for more of the same, and perhaps we’ll go one better!
Tries: Fraser Houlder, Kyle Jardine, PT, Richie Duncan
Conversions: Julian Lamb x 2, Jotty Dhillon