King’s Cross Steelers III XV vs Pegasus Palmerians II XV
The heavy rain the day before had softened up the ground ready for some rough and tumble. But it was a hard landing for the Steelers IIIs after the strong debut season opener the week before.
The Thirds were at home for the second match of the season, hosting the Pegasus Palmerians’ second side who arrived at the Memorial Grounds packing plenty of muscle. The match would be played under grey but dry skies, though the wind would pose more than a few problems for both sides’ kickers. Kierran Mullan and Michael Schuddinck were once again listed on the team sheet, joined by fellow 2015/6 season joiner, Andrew Alaka, making his first appearance for the Third XV, and 1915/6 season veteran, Claudio Mazzetti, bringing some depth of experience to the starting line-up. Elsewhere, a number of players were flexing into new positions to cover gaps in the squad due to injuries. Wesley Manson lent First XV power to the front row alongside Al O’Brien and captain, James Brandon.
Confidence was solid as the whistle blew for the 1pm kick-off but Pegasus was soon setting the writing all over the wall with a try two minutes in followed by another after five minutes, and another after nine. There would be another seven before the whistle blew again for half-time. But the Steelers kept their heads, with Manson making a powerful charge off a ruck and Alaka deploying a textbook tackle to block one Pegasus swift dash for the try line.
Danilo Acosta-Baig had come on for Samy Latrèche with eight minutes to go in the first half, and Mullan’s graduation from the Club’s “Pathway to Rugby” programme back in the spring proved fully deserved with a fearless tackle shortly after. That prevented yet another first-half try for the Palmerians, whose player had been sprinting down the wing until Mullan’s interception. The rest of the team rallied, refusing to let Pegasus maul the ball over the try line a few minutes later.
For the second half, Tom Hodgson came on to play on the wing, with Matt Carter moving to full back for Prince Haastrup. All of the team had had to dig deep in the first forty, but only a few could be relieved of duty at this stage. Straight up, Hodgson and Carter converged to bring down a Pegasus powerhouse, but the players in red bounced straight back with another try on the wing which, though it could not be converted, brought the score to 69–0 to the visitors. A few minutes later the ball found its way to fly-half Chris Plummer, who darted away from the scrum only to be brought down valiantly trying to gain the Steelers some ground.
With 30 minutes remaining, Jamie Byrne came off to be replaced at inside centre by versatile Alaka, with Schuddinck coming on to re-balance the pack. The game was well out of the Steelers’ reach by now, but the home side refused to give up the battle even after Latrèche was recalled to the fight to replace an injured Plummer with only 15 minutes left on the clock. Pegasus would not be allowed to have it all their own way: pushes for the line were rebuffed on more than one occasion even as players’ energy waned.
The Pegasus onslaught had been slowed to just six tries in the second half so it was a defeated but not downbeat 3rd King's Cross side that left the field with the final score at 96 nil. Mullan was awarded Man of the Match for fearless effort, partially making up for the bloody head he got from the boot of teammate O’Brien, who had somehow got Mullan’s head confused for the ball in a second-half scrum. That earned O’Brien a pink pint of his own and the much coverted wearable unicorn head trophy.
Shepherd Neame Essex Merit Tables Division 7: King's Cross Steelers III v. Pegasus Palmerians II, Saturday, 17 September 2016, Memorial Recreation Ground, KO 1.00 p.m. Forwards: James Brandon (captain), Alistair O’Brien, Wesley Manson, Andrew Koch, Kierran Mullan, Andrew Alaka, Claudio Mazzetti, John Riley. Backs: Richard Laws, Chris Plummer, Jamie Byrne, Samy Latrèche, Tom Edgar, Matt Carter, Prince Haastrup. Reserves: Michael Schuddinck, Danilo Acosta-Baig, Tom Hodgson. Coach: Scott Marshall.
Report by George Baxter.