The post Christmas break saw the re-convening of the 4th XV in a tough, close fought game, a long way way from home. The game saw the return of several old faces, Wayne Brewin
and Jez Malpas bringing experience that would make decisions that eventually won us the game. Captain, Pete Connor having been dropped to the 2nd team for a period before Xmas, eventually proved his form and made a welcome return, (well, we can't prop them up forever!). No away match would ever be complete without our "playing away" expert, Dave Rees
, who had a 100% "kicking" record throughout the game. (more about that later!)
I've brought a notebook to make these reports a bit more rugby related and accurate. However I can't read my writing, so I'm going off what I can make out, advice from Wayne and Malpy in the car on the way home and a couple of pints of Abbot I've found in the cupboard left over from Xmas. As usual deepest apologies to anyone I've left out or misrepresented, (with the obvious exceptions of Reecy and Gambo!)
On arrival at the club, Brewin helped the team spirit along by cheerily reminding us that Martin Johnson occasionally turns out for their lower teams now he's retired. Gambo was unavailable due to a "hand injury", (I want my DVD back by training on Thursday, you can keep the magazine after last time), and a new bloke called Alex Shay turned up who looked useful and didn't disappoint.
Anyway, on to the game, last time we played these guys we won something ridiculous nil, and had the game abandoned after 60 minutes. This was a very different game for many reasons; 1) we were playing away, 2) most of their players looked different and 3) they all wore different shirts with "Market Haroborough 2nd XV" written on them. Apparently, they'd picked up the wrong shirts,.... which happens all the time. Suffice to say the game was an awful lot closer than our first encounter this season.
We kicked off to them, they didn't keep hold of it for very long, our backs dropped it, which led to the first scrum. This was the first time I'd noticed the regenerative effects of Market Harborough mud. The front row stood opposite to me had got about 15-20 years younger in 3 months, (actually, the second and back row also seemed to be using the same moisturiser.). No matter, our pack pushed them around, and hardly took a step backwards all afternoon. We quite quickly moved to be about 12 metres away from their posts and in front of them, when Harbro gave away one of their many foolish penalties of the afternoon. At this point, there was a lot of pressure to run it or scrum, but Malpy and Pete kept cool heads and went for points. Dave "carry cot" Reece stepped up to take the honours. Reecy asked me to write about his 100% kicking record in the changing rooms afterwards. In the car home, Brewin and Malpy did point out that "kicking" was a bit of an exageration, as he was so close for the kicks that "dinks" would be a better description. (Aren't Dinky toys something young people play with?...mmmmm!)
Anyway, the game continued, Harbro were rucking a lot better than us, through our lack of communication and commitment in these phases. However, rather than settle for dominance in this area, they kept on giving us the ball back through indiscipline at the ruck; illegal use of the boot, (when they'd already clearly won the ball), diving over, in at the side, you name it. What seemed strange was that the ref was clearly on top of the ruck, and was wise to forwards' "little games" , but they kept on doing it. This led to more penalties, when we were too far away we ran at them and when we were within spitting distance we kicked it. New boy, Alex Shea
proved he isn't just a pretty face, (he isn't a pretty face and should never consider being a back!), he had some great runs both with the ball and in support, Frodo had some fantastic charges at them and made some serious yards and Mark Redpath
(he's lost the hat, so with it goes Gimli), had a stormer of a game running at and quite often through their back line. He later find out where Elaine had hidden this week's pie!
In the first half, we had a free kick in our 22 for an early lift at the lineout. The story I got from Wayne in the car home was that Malpy fainted at the front of the line, which caused their guy to go early, hence the free kick. (Malpy had a different story about spelling or something, but I liked Wayne's spelling better and I get to write the report!). Mike (the back) turned up with really nice shorts, immaculate hair and a nice pair of blue and red socks and went to kick it in to touch. This is what happens when you let backs play rugby. Malpy (I think) pointed out it was a free kick, not a penalty so we'd just give them posession, and someone else pointed out that their backs appeared to have been absent from tackling practice for some time. Added to this was the fact that they had all their back row (who could tackle) loaded on the right hand side of the field waiting for the expected kick to touch which would have cleared our lines. Mike took the penalty but passed it to Pete who ran left and passed it to our fly half (Kieron Murray) on the 22. He had great hair but the shorts were a nightmare, no creases or anything, he ran at and through their back line, and ran pretty much to their 22, he was well supported and passed the ball to Timmy Campbell
who carefully placed the ball under their posts to make Rees' life happier, (although, at the moment, I'm not sure how this is possible!).
In the second half, our lineout got better, in that the hooker actually threw the damned thing straight a couple of times and gave our catchers something to catch, our running was good throughout the game. Tom Litchfield
continued to honour the Litchfield legacy of making many yards with the ball in hand and a yellow shirt on the back, (despite his Dad continuing to whinge about dirty fingernails, bad hair days, exploding appendix or some other feeble excuse that stops him from playing). There were many things to note about the game but it's worth remembering we scored 1 try and they scored 3 and we still won. Or did they? On the way home I was informed by persons who shall remain nameless, about an incident late in the second half on our line when their little number 7 protested a refused try, stood up very upset, effing and jeffing, getting very aggressive, then slowly looking up at Big James' chest and deciding the ref was right and it really wasn't worth it! (The midget may have had a point apparently!). 1 minute from the end they scored a try, 16-15, their fly half stepped up to take the kick, I was stood on the half way next to their lads and said "this is going to be close". They replied "no it won't he hasn't hit anything all day!" and they were right!
Man of the match Wayne and Malpy gave it to Mark Redpath
and I'd tend to agree, he had a stormer, (next week's pie is Steak and kidney). My view is that a quote that was said in gest was to, a large extent, a good reflection of the afternoon; "Their backrow kept them in it, ours won it", still you can't have 4 men of the match and certainly 2 of my selection should be too old to be bothered about such things!
Ian "emotional crutch" Jones